Friday 22 September 2017

Horror of marathon runner who couldn’t beat bush fire and suffered terrible burns

Turia Pitt was a contestant in Miss Earth Australia in 2007 and (right) giving evidence at the inquiry in Perth
Turia Pitt was a contestant in Miss Earth Australia in 2007 and (right) giving evidence at the inquiry in Perth

Amy Willis

A FORMER model who was horrifically burned after bushfires engulfed her while running a marathon, has spoken of her terrible ordeal.

Turia Pitt, 24, was running through a canyon in Kimberley, Western Australia, when she became trapped in-between walls of flames with “nowhere to go”.



“It just got hotter and hotter and hotter and I couldn’t stand it any more so I jumped up and tried to run and that’s when I got burned,” she told a parliamentary inquiry into the incident in Perth.



Miss Pitt, who was a contestant in Miss Earth Australia in 2007, said competitors were given little warning about the dangers of wildfires on the 60-mile route, saying organisers had been more concerned about snakes, crocodiles and dehydration. Fires were only given a fleeting mention.



“They told us to avoid the fires if there were fires, but it was more of a passing comment,” she said, adding that she is unable to return to work due to her injuries.



Her partner has also had to stop working to care for her. Miss Pitt said she initially had no intention of registering for the race due to the £1,000 entry fee but was later persuaded to join.



Another victim, Kate Sanderson, 36 said there was a severe staff shortage along the course.



“You put your trust in the organisers. We just assumed that everything’s taken care of,” she told the inquiry.



Miss Sanderson has extensive scarring to her body, half of her left foot had to be amputated and most of her earlobes are missing after becoming trapped during the run.



“I stood there in shock – I didn’t even look. I just knew I had been badly burned,” she said.



Michael Hull, who suffered 20 per cent burns when he and three others were caught in the flames, said they were taken by surprise.



“It was just horrendously hot. We tried to run away from the blaze but we became trapped by the wall of flame,” he said.



“We had a quick choice of being a human fireball and burning and that was the end, or what we did, instantaneously, is just stop and run back through the wall of flame.



“We knew the flame, while it was high, we knew on the other side of it there was nothing left to burn.”



Mr Hull claimed that stewards at a checkpoint failed to warn runners despite knowing that the fire was coming.



Telegraph.co.uk

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