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Ellicott City mother sues Tough Mudder over obstacle race death

Justice SystemGeneral Mills Incorporated

The mother of an Ellicott City man who died a year ago following an obstacle race in West Virginia has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the organizers of the Tough Mudder event.

Mita Sengupta, mother of Avishek Sengupta, claims that Tough Mudder was negligent in moving mud racers through a "walk the plank" obstacle, and did not provide proper supervision or safety precautions. She filed the lawsuit in Marshall County Circuit Court in West Virginia last month and is seeking unspecified damages and attorneys' fees.

Avishek Sengupta, a 28-year-old account executive for a technology firm, died the day after the April 20, 2013, Tough Mudder race in Gerrardstown, W.Va.

Tough Mudder advertises "hard-core" 10- to 12-mile races full of muddy and challenging obstacles.

In her lawsuit, Mita Sengupta alleges that Tough Mudder didn't have enough safety personnel in place, and that those who were there failed to monitor the "walk the plank" obstacle where Avishek Sengupta went under the muddy water and didn't resurface.

Sengupta attended the race with a group of friends and co-workers and made it through two miles and three obstacles, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that the fourth obstacle, "walk the plank," was crowded with racers and was supervised by one volunteer who shouted into a megaphone to get people to jump from a platform into a 13-foot-deep pool of muddy water.

After Sengupta jumped in, another racer jumped on top of him and struck him, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that officials did not track racers to make sure they made it out of the water. The lawsuit further claims that it took too long for a rescue diver on site to search for Sengupta, and that race officials took too long to summon an ambulance.

When he was pulled from the water, Sengupta was "limp, lifeless and foaming at the mouth," according to the lawsuit. The suit contends that his heartbeat was restored 42 minutes after he jumped into the water, and he was taken to a local hospital, then later to a regional hospital. His family took him off life support the next day.

Tough Mudder did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The company has previously declined to discuss details of the incident, though officials have said they reviewed safety procedures and found them to be satisfactory. None of the rescue staff were disciplined.

The Berkeley County sheriff's office investigated Sengupta's death and declined to file criminal charges.

The lawsuit also names General Mills, the maker of Wheaties cereal, which was advertised on the "walk the plank" obstacle. General Mills declined to comment.

Other defendants in the lawsuit include Airsquid Ventures of California, the company that hired the diver; and Peacemaker National Training Center, the shooting range where the race was held. Officials for each declined to comment.

pwood@baltsun.com

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