In the world of competitive athleticism, the Tough Mudder obstacle race ranks high near the top. In fact, according to the event’s own promotional materials, it’s “probably the toughest event on the planet.” The 12-mile race, which was designed by British Special Forces to help participants overcome common human fears like fire and heights, is held in different spots internationally each year.
At the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder, however, tragedy struck when Avishek Sengupta, a participant, drowned while competing in the “Walk the Plank” obstacle. Now, Sengupta’s parents have filed a wrongful death complaint through West Virginia’s Marshall County second circuit court.
The legal team, comprised of professionals from Boston’s Gilbert and Renton firm, lists a number of different organizations responsible for Sengupta’s death beyond just the Tough Mudder, which has had over a million participants since its launch in 2010. Also implicated in the complaint are Airsquid Ventures, the rescue diving company, and Travis Pittman, the rescue diver on duty, as defendants. Co-defendants include the Peacemaker National Training Center, the venue where the event was held, and General Mills, whose Wheaties brand cereal sponsored the “Walk the Plank” obstacle of the event.
On the rainy and windy day in April 2013, Sengupta plunged 15 feet down into the muddy water below and didn’t resurface. After his teammates panicked, the suit alleges that the entire operation displayed gross negligent conduct, including failure to follow basic safety precautions around the “Walk the Plank” event and misleading participants about the course’s overall safety, that led to Sengupta’s eventual death.
Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the event’s operators took deliberate action to speed up the pace of the “Walk the Plank” event as a result of participants’ complaints regarding wait times. This may have resulted in another competitor jumping on top of Sengupta and potentially knocking him unconscious. Additionally, the defendant Travis Pittman, who was in charge of leading any rescue efforts should they be required, had expired diver credentials at the time of Sengupta’s drowning, the new report finds.
After the event, Tough Mudder released a statement calling Sengupta’s death a “tragic accident” that was somehow unavoidable despite having 75 trained safety personnel manning the course throughout the duration of the event. The Berkeley County sheriff’s office subsequently ruled his death an “accidental drowning.”
“It is understandable that the victims family would want restitution, but it is a tough case when the victim was participating in the event of his own accord,” explains Aaron Waxman, Senior Partner of Aaron Waxman & Associates.
Tough Mudder and the other defendants have 30 days to respond to the complaint.