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Death Prompts Review Of W.Va. Tough Mudder Endurance Event That Killed Md. Man

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Screen capture of Avi Sengupta, a Tough Mudder participant who died during the obstacle course race. (Credit: WJZ-13)

Screen capture of Avi Sengupta, a Tough Mudder participant who died during the obstacle course race. (Credit: WJZ-13)

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GLENGARY, W.Va. (AP) — Organizers of an endurance challenge are reviewing protocol following the death of a competitor from Maryland at an event in West Virginia.

Police say Avishek Sengupta, 28, of Ellicott City, Md., was found last Saturday in water at the “Walk the Plank” obstacle of a Tough Mudder endurance event near Glengary. He died the next day at a northern Virginia hospital. A medical examiner said Sengupta drowned.

“We are undergoing a thorough review of the protocol for all obstacles, including the one that was involved in this incident. We are also internally reviewing how we brief and manage our water safety personnel,” Tough Mudder spokeswoman Ashley Pinakiewicz told The Journal.

“We will also be implementing any changes with staff and volunteers which are found to be necessary,” Pinakiewicz said.

There are no plans to remove any obstacles but changes would be made as deemed necessary, she said.

British Special Forces designed the 12-mile event to test competitors’ physical and mental strength. An event typically features 20 to 25 hazards depending on the topography, Pinakiewicz said.

The Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder event was held at the Peacemaker National Training Center and had 22 hazards that included icy water, fire and electrical shocks from live wires.

Cole McCulloch, the training center’s owner, said Sengupta’s death raised concerns, including the “Walk the Plank” obstacle.

“But I do like this event, what it stands for and how it benefits the Wounded Warrior Project. As we saw here, camaraderie is a big part of it and the goodness that teammates show to one another. I think it says a lot that we had thousands of people here and no problems to speak of. It says a lot about the kind of people who participate,” he told the newspaper.

The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department is investigating Sengupta’s death as an accident.

“Something needs to be done to prevent this kind of death. And if the event is being run safely, something like this should never happen. I am so saddened for (Sengupta’s) family and friends,” said Traci Goldt, who attended the event as a spectator with The Ants team from Bethesda, Md.

A Tough Mudder event in Mansfield, Ohio, will be held as scheduled this weekend, Pinakiewicz said.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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