FORT WORTH — Friends and family say 30-year-old Tony Weathers was one of the most talented athletes they knew. They cannot understand how a man in such elite physical condition died during Fort Worth's "Original Mud Run" on Saturday.
"He was just exceptional, just exceptional," said Lynetta Moore, Weathers' personal trainer. "Gone too soon."
Weathers was in the competitive division of the Mud Run staged near LaGrave Field, starting his race at 2 p.m. His death raises concerns about the safety of participants.
The Mud Run puts contestants on an obstacle course with challenges including "Hole to Hades," "Leap of Faith" and "Stairway to Heaven."
In the middle of the race, they swim across the Trinity River.
Moore says friends who had taken part in the non-competitive leg hours earlier were on a bridge waiting to take pictures of Weathers and cheer him on.
"They never saw him cross," she said. "He should have been near the first part."
Weathers' girlfriend was waiting at the finish line, and when he was hours late, she told race organizers.
A search began around 5 p.m. Saturday. Weathers' family filed a missing person report.
The search was suspended when it became too dark.
At 8:30 Sunday morning, Fort Worth Fire Department dive crews returned to the water. In heavy rain and with lightning flashing around them, they entered the water.
Within 15 minutes, they found a body.
It is unclear why no one realized Weathers had gone under the water during the race. Organizers e-mailed WFAA saying they were making themselves available to assist the family in any way they could.
"Safety is paramount in our events and we are profoundly saddened by the loss of one of our participants," the message said. Mud Run organizers said they would provide a formal statement on Monday.
Moore said Weathers was an accomplished athlete who was hoping to open his own personal training business soon. His family said he had two business degrees.
"Trying to keep him challenged was a challenge," Moore said. "I just don't know how it happened. He's strong enough to pull himself out of that water. I don't know if he was trampled, tangled, but it doesn't make sense. Totally out of character for someone with that level of athleticism. Something went wrong. I don't know what, but something went wrong."
Friends say Weathers did know how to swim. The Original Mud Run Web site says it is not necessary to know how to swim in order to participate, "although it is recommended" and there are "guide ropes and lifeguards" in areas of water activities.
The Mud Run Web site also says it has paramedics or EMS personnel at each of its events. Fort Worth firefighters at the scene told News 8 that no one from their department had been engaged to work at Saturday's race.
The Web site suggests that participants work with a trainer because the race can be tough. Contestants must sign a safety waiver in order to participate.
The Original Mud Run has come to North Texas a number of times in the past. It was held in the Dallas-Fort Worth area twice last year; no major problems were reported at either event.
There is one more Original Mud Run scheduled this year. It will be held next month in Houston.