Mud Run had lifeguards, but participants didn't see them




Posted on April 16, 2012 at 10:01 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 16 at 10:21 PM

The Original Mud Run

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FORT WORTH — The Original Mud Run has a 14-year history in Fort Worth. Four-thousand people finished the race on Saturday, but 30-year-old Tony Weathers did not.

He died on the course; the official cause of death has not yet been established.

Weathers' body was pulled from the Trinity River on Sunday morning.

"Complete chaos," is how Mud Run participant Casey Stanfield described the event. He ran to and then swam across the Trinity a few hours before Weathers.

In video shot by a helmet cam and then posted on YouTube by another participant, cries of "Help!" and "Lifeguard! Lifeguard!" can be clearly heard.

Original Mud Run organizers asked a public relations firm to answer questions from the media. They said there were four lifeguards assigned to the water crossing where Weathers died — all of them certified, and all of them had flotation devices.

Organizers said there were two other lifeguards at another water crossing, and an additional nine trained medical professionals on scene as well.

But the PR firm would not look at the YouTube video and tell us where the lifeguards were visible.

"Never saw 'em," said Stanfield, adding that he did observe one young man on a platform floating in the middle of the river, but that no flotation device was observed.

The YouTube video also shows one woman with a whistle around her neck at the water's exit, but she has no flotation device in her hand.

Swimming was not a requirement to participate in the event, but the Original Mud Run PR firm also stressed that organizers made repeated announcements about a walking detour that was available for participants who could not swim, or who chose not to.

Friends and family members said Tony Weathers could swim.

Weathers, described as being in impeccable physical shape, participated in the competitive division of the Mud Run. So did Jarad Clarke.

Clarke said he saw only one person he assumed to be a lifeguard. "He had a few 'fun noodles,' but as far as really appearing as a lifeguard, it wasn't adequate," Clarke said. "He appeared as a supervisor that was water-savvy enough to try to help out."

The death of Weathers clearly troubles Clarke. "It could've been any one of us," he said.

A friend snapped a photo of Weathers just before the race, wearing camouflage pants, which were part of the required uniform for the competitive division — even for the swim.

Clarke said he wore just shorts and tennis shoes. "I didn't feel it was that long of a swim, but at the same time, to have pants and boots on is cumbersome to get across the water," he said.

Clarke has taken part in several other Mud Runs. "They didn't have enough people through this course — not this one part, but whole course — watching, monitoring, doing anything really," he said.

The City of Fort Worth said the Mud Run took place on land that is exempt from its outdoor event ordinance, meaning it did not require any sort of permit. The city had nothing to do with the event.

"You're just out there alone, even though there's a million people around, but when you're swimming there's nothing you can do," Stanfield said. "You can't help each other. In fact, you might kill each other trying to get out."