Organisers of The Grid, an obstacle course race, were absolved of responsibility by a magisterial inquiry into an accident that left an athlete almost completely paralysed last year, the Times of Malta reported.
A magisterial inquiry concluded that there was no negligence by the organisers and that the athlete, Andrea Calleja, was to blame for sliding head-first, rather than in a seated position, into a pool of water.
Calleja unfortunately suffered a severe spinal cord injury which caused widespread (but not complete) paralysis, leaving him confined to a wheelchair and seeking treatment abroad.
One of the organisers, Michael Naudi, said that the report is “very clear” that Calleja tried to be “a bit more adventurous and, unfortunately, this accident happened”. He explained that the inquiry proves that the event followed all the rules.
Magistrate Charmaine Galea ultimately concluded that Calleja was solely to blame for the incident since he did not slide down with his legs out first.
However, the report also said that the marshal did not warn Calleja against going down head first, and the marshal on duty stated that it was not his job to do so and that he was not given any instructions from the organisers to show participants how to slide down.
Yet, Naudi said that marshals are told to inform participants to slide when seated and not go with more than four people at one time.
Meanwhile, Calleja told Galea that he saw people sliding head first in a previous event and in footage of marketing material by the organisers – Naudi denied this claim, saying that it is difficult for marshals to control some participants.
The organiser referred to a previous incident where one person went down the slide standing up – “We all freaked out and this person was banned” he said.
The magisterial inquity further found that the pool was full after the police checked the water levels.
Naudi stated that all necessary safety features were present at the event, including around three ambulances, members of the Red Cross, and doctors at the finishing line.
Following the incident and the subsequent public reaction, the organisers were considering closing and completely stopping the event.
However, the support from the fitness community as well as the outcome of this inquiry validated that this was a “freak accident” not the result of negligence.
Calleja is currently undergoing rehabilitation for his injury which could have resulted in complete paralysis. Fundraisers are helping the athlete raise money to afford a cure for his injury which comes in the form of a small yet integral operation that can only take place halfway across the world.
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