imagejpeg 3 Safety Claims Debated After Mud Run Participant Dies

Tony Weathers, 30, died trying to cross the Trinity River during the 15th 'Original Mud Run' event in Fort Worth on April 14, 2012. This is him at the starting line.(Credit: Weathers Family)

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Organizers of the adventure race where a competitor died this weekend defended their safety measures Monday while participants reported chaos along the stretch where the 30-year-old man died.

As many as 100 safety monitors were on the course, they said, and lifeguards were stationed at the water crossings.

Tony Weathers never made it past the first water crossing during the final, competitive heat of the Original Mud Run in Fort Worth.

The 10k race is made up of as many as 30 obstacles, including walls and muddy ditches. Dive teams found Weather’s body in the water Sunday.

A spokesperson for DFW Runs, a public relations and marketing firm, said in a statement that the run had never lost a participant in its 14 year existence.

“As there are recognized risks in many organized recreational activities, we strive to mitigate those risks through constant communication and awareness to the individual that he or she is the only one truly capable of making a choice to participate,” the statement said.

Organizers said four certified life guards were at the first crossing, including one on each bank and two on floating platforms in the water.

A two-person medical team drives the course during the race. There was another static two-person medical unit and a two-person first aid unit as well, organizers say.

Competitors who talked with CBS 11, though, described the water crossings as chaotic and said safety staffing was far from adequate.

“I don’t care if they had 10 lifeguards out there,” said Mia Walters. “They should have done something and nothing was done. They can argue the number of people all they want, they still weren’t able to handle it, and it wasn’t handled.”

Walters was in the same heat with Weathers. She said she needed help from another runner to get out of the water safely.

“I had a woman who was crying so hard in front of me and so panicked that she grabbed my head, pulled me under,” Walters said. “I didn’t think I was coming back up.”

Tim Green ran the race with his wife and 16-year-old son. He was prepared for waist deep water, but said it was immediately over his head and people were panicking and grabbing at things to hold onto, including other runners.

He said his son went under water twice.

“He yelled at the person, ‘We’ll call him a lifeguard, I need help, I need help; and the person yelled back at him, ‘You’re not a man if you can’t finish this,’” Green said.

Four thousand people entered the race. They went out on the course in heats of up to 400. Video from YouTube shows runners getting into the water and starting to swim. Halfway across the 30-yard gap swimmers can be seen resting on a floating platform.

The Mud Run website says competitors don’t have to know how to swim to participate.

The waiver form participants signs mentions climbing, crawling and traversing but not specifically swimming. The website says competitors can rely on ropes and lifeguards in those areas.

Some runners told CBS 11 that the ropes were weighed down below the surface. The same YouTube video shows runners holding the ropes up on the banks, trying to lift them out of the water to help other runners.

The Original Mud Run did have a valid permit for the race from the Tarrant Regional Water District.

A copy of a $5 million insurance policy is attached to the permit. The TRWD did not require any additional safety measures.

The permit lists Paul Cortaway as the race director. No one came to the door at a Mansfield home listed as Cortaway’s address. The Arlington address for the company is a mailbox at a mailbox business.

Read the full permit below: