Tough Mudder Participant Calls Response to Drowning "Negligent"

11:30 PM, May 31, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -  A 28-year-old from Ellicott City drowned while competing in a Tough Mudder event in West Virginia last April.  One month later, the Tough Mudder participant who filmed the accident shared why he believes more could have been done to save Avishek Sengupta.  

"I never thought I would see anything like I saw that day," said Brett Brocki.

This was Brocki's third Tough Mudder and he wore a small camera strapped to his head as he raced through the obstacles.  In his video, you can see him approaching one of the most difficult obstacles on the course, Walk the Plank.  It's a 15-foot high jump into freezing, muddy water.  

"It was very crowded at the top," said Brocki.  "There was no one up there telling you when to jump.  It's just look out below.  That's the scary part about it."

Brocki's a strong swimmer.  He's retired military and scuba certified.  But right behind him on the obstacle was Avi Shengupta.  His teammates watched him jump in, but he never surfaced. 

"Someone's drowning!" you can hear Brocki say in his video. 

Everyone around the obstacle, including Brocki, starts screaming Avi's name.  But soon they start screaming at someone else, the one rescue diver assigned to monitor the obstacle.  

"My immediate reaction as a diver is, 'Why isn't he already in the water searching?" said Brocki.

According to the Berkeley County Sheriff Department's accident report, another witness said the diver "displayed zero sense of urgency" and even "cleaned his flippers before he put them on."  Brocki says he also witnessed the diver cleaning his flippers.

"These are just valuable minutes and somebody is just sitting underwater," said Brocki.
WUSA9 asked Ashley Pinakiewicz, Tough Mudder's Director of Marketing Communications, why it took so long to get a diver in the water.  Here's how she replied:

"I can't speculate as to the amount of time that passed at that particular incident."

But Brocki was able to give an approximate time simply by watching his video.

"We're at 4 minutes 30 seconds and counting, and he's still not under the water," said Brocki.

"All I can say is that we're confident that the emergency personnel and safety measures we had in place were followed," said Pinakiewicz.  

Avi later died at the hospital.  The medical examiner ruled the death an accidental drowning and the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department closed the case.  But Brocki says he still thinks about it every day.

"I do think it's negligent on the part of the personnel and how they're set up to do that obstacle," said Brocki.

WUSA9 contacted the president of Amphibious Medics, the company hired by Tough Mudder to provide certified rescue divers. All he would say was, "No comment."

Tough Mudder has been around for almost four years and this was their first death.  Pinakiewicz says they've made "minor tweaks" to the Walk the Plank obstacle, but she declined to go into specifics.    

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