NEW ORLEANS — A climbing obstacle with more than 20 people on it collapsed during a 5K obstacle race near Baton Rouge, and four people — including a 10-year-old child — remained hospitalized Sunday, the State Fire Marshal’s Office said.
“We don’t know exactly how many were injured,” but do know 12 were taken to hospitals by ambulance or helicopter, Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Brant Thompson said Sunday. He said he believed the child was a girl, but he wasn’t certain.
“We do know … we had broken bones, lacerations, back injuries, neck injuries, arms, legs, feet. There was blood splattered around the collapsed structure,” he said.
He told The Associated Press that preliminary findings indicate that there was inadequate bracing on the obstacle called the “Diesel Dome,” shown on the website for the national “Warrior Dash” race series as a 30-by-50-foot arched wooden framework.
Thompson said the Diesel Dome collapsed sometime after 1 p.m. Saturday at the West Feliciana Parish Sports Park, in West Feliciana Parish about 30 miles from Baton Rouge. Thousands of competitors had climbed safely over the framework, he noted. After it fell, he said, many competitors ran around the collapsed structure; others who had medical training stopped to help.
“I was climbing to the top of it when it started leaning and collapsed,” nurse Brandi Taylor, of Jena, told The Advocate (http://bit.ly/2e2ZwJA ). “It was obvious that it was structurally unsound. It was very scary because it happened in slow motion.”
Her left arm was splinted and secured to her body; she said it was broken and her wrist was sprained.
Taylor said she helped some people who had cuts and what appeared to be broken bones.
Thompson said an organizer told him it’s the first such accident in the nationwide Warrior Dash race series. Investigators are checking to see whether that’s true, he said.
The company that organizes the races, Red Frog Events of Chicago, had only a three-sentence statement: “Our thoughts are with the injured participants and their families. The safety and security of our racers and spectators are paramount at our events. We are currently evaluating the situation.”
Thompson said he was told that Red Frog uses regional contractors who build the obstacles from standard plans, and he has asked for the blueprints.
He said he wants to know whether the race’s obstacles are built to specifications every time, “or were corners cut? If we find corners were cut with disregard for the safety of participants, this investigation will move to another level.”
This is the fourth Warrior Dash at the park near St. Francisville, and organizers said 6,500 people had pre-registered, Thompson said. He said investigators were working to learn how many participated, including those who registered at the site.
On-site registration cost $90, according to the Warrior Dash website.
Thompson said investigators were trying to rebuild the Diesel Dome to see what broke where, and what probably broke first, and are studying the two other obstacles that were still standing when he arrived Saturday.
“Based on our initial review of those structures, we question the stability of those as well,” he said.
Thompson said the quick tear-down made him suspicious at first but turned out to be standard procedure for the contractor.
Lack of supervision to control the number of people on each obstacle may have been a problem, he said.
Organizers let people onto the course in groups, “but there was little to no supervision at any point in the course. … They did not have attendants positioned at every obstacle throughout the course to identify possible problems,” he said.
State Fire Marshal’s Office: www.lasfm.org/