Family questioning event's safety after Mud Run death

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on May 3, 2012 at 7:26 PM

Updated Thursday, May 3 at 9:12 PM

The Original Mud Run

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FORT WORTH - Zenill Traylor's tears haven't stopped for two-and-a-half weeks. Thursday, she spoke publicly for the first time since the nephew she raised as a son died in Fort Worth's Original Mud Run.

"To think of the way my baby died, it's devastating," said a crying Traylor. "No one wants to hear their child died in that manner. No one wants to hear that, you know.
 
"If I could have traded places with him, I would have done it," she continued.

Zenill raised her nephew, Tony Weathers, and watched a wide-eyed boy turn into a successful man.

"He was the guy I want my sons to be," said Tony's sister, Lesley Coffey. "That's who he was."

Traylor said Tony grew up poor, but graduated with high honors from Skyline High School. He then graduated from El Centro and the University of Texas at Dallas, earning an associates degree and then a bachelor's degree in business. He was a top-notch athlete and a fierce competitor.

He wasn't supposed to die at 30.

April 14, he competed in the elite division of the Fort Worth Mud Run, which is an obstacle course-style race near the Trinity River and then a swim through the water.

Tony was not only an accomplished runner, "He had been swimming ever since he was a young child," Traylor told News 8.

"He was always participating in some kind of athletic event," she said. "And this one, he was excited about the Mud Run."

"Usually, before each race he'll call and say, 'Pray for me; that everything will be okay,'" she said. "Little did we know that this would result in an untimely death."

Tony got in the water to swim across the Trinity River, but he never got out.

His girlfriend waiting at the finish line got nervous when he was late. She notified emergency personnel on scene who started searching. Traylor and others came to the scene and spent all night looking and waiting.

"We were determined to stay there," she said. "We were concerned, thinking maybe he'd see the light, see us by the starting line. We just walked with our cell phones all night. All night Saturday into Sunday morning, hoping that he was somewhere hurt or injured and couldn't get to us."

Fort Worth dive teams found Tony's body Sunday morning. His death has been ruled an accidental drowning.

"It's just hard for us to wrap our fingers around the loss of my baby," Traylor said. "It's really really hard for the family."

With tears running down Coffey's face, she recalled growing up with Tony.

"Now I can't call him, I can't text him, I can't Facebook him, I can't e-mail him, I can't do anything," she said. "Because of somebody's carelessness, negligence, he's not here.

"At 30, you don't see yourself dying," she added. "You especially don't see someone like that dying. Not doing what you love."

The family has hired a lawyer to investigate what happened. They are asking anyone who was in the water with Tony to contact attorney George "Tex" Quesada's office at 214-720-0720, or on his web site: www.textrial.com.

"The safety measures -- what was in place?" Traylor asked. "I'm upset and I'm angry. They should have been more stringent."

"I thank God I had 30 years with him," she said. "But that's a short time."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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