Mud Run participant claims 'panic' at river crossing

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on April 16, 2012 at 5:26 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 16 at 7:33 PM

The Original Mud Run

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FORT WORTH — Tony Weathers was healthy and in great physical shape.

He even dreamed of opening his own gym.

Weathers was one of the hundreds of people who took part in Saturday's Original Mud Run along the banks of the Trinity River, but he didn't make it to the finish line. His body was pulled from the Trinity on Sunday morning.

There is new information that could help explain why.

Did organizers of the Mud Run fall short when it comes to safety? That depends on who you ask.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office performed an autopsy on 30-year-old Tony Weathers on Monday, but investigators are waiting for toxicology results before declaring a cause of death.

But others who were at the Mud Run are blaming the event organizers for the tragedy.

"I was in that water, and it was terrifying," said Mud Run participant Mia Walters. She was so enraged by Saturday's event that she posted a rant on YouTube about chaos in the Trinity River.

"The only other thing I saw was crying, panic-stricken people around me," she said. "All I could feel was people grabbing at me because they were so scared because they were drowning."

Weathers was part of the crowd crossing the murky Trinity River; he never made it, even though he was by all accounts a strong, well-conditioned athlete.

In an amateur video taken around the time that Weathers would have been crossing, swimmers can be heard screaming for lifeguards.

Original Mud Run organizers would not go on camera to discuss the incident, but they released another statement, saying there were four certified lifeguards at the river crossing, including two who were on a floating platform and one on each side.

But in a video obtained by News 8, there is no guard visible on the platform.

"I guess I saw two employees on either side; I saw one lifeguard, a girl wearing a swimsuit," Mia Walters said in her online video. "Maybe two, but I know I saw one."

Orgainzers of the event also claim there was a two-person intensive care unit and a first aid station near the start/finish line, roving monitors, and military-trained Corpsmen at water stops.

The Mud Run's Web site told participants they didn't have to know how to swim, because there were guide ropes and alternative land routes.

Mia Walters and other mud-runners maintain there were too many people in the water to keep track of.

"I had one woman who was so scared, crying, panicking... literally drowning next to me," Walters said in her video statement. "She reached out and grabbed my head and pulled me underwater ... I didn't think I was coming back up."

Original Mud Run organizers and their public relations representative declined on-camera interviews, but released a statement saying their thoughts are with Tony Weathers' family.

They said nothing like this has happened in the 14-year history of the event.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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