Man roasted to death in sauna competition
Published 09/08/2010 | 05:00
A Russian competing in the Sauna World Championships died after collapsing with severe burns in the final stage of the event.
The contest required contestants to sit in a room heated to 110C as water was tossed onto a searing stove, according to witnesses.
Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy, an amateur wrestler in his 60s, died after collapsing alongside reigning champion Timo Kaukonen of Finland roughly six minutes into Saturday's final round.
Nearly 1,000 spectators had gathered in the southern Finnish town of Heinola to watch 130 competitors from 15 countries.
Video footage shows workers pouring cold water over the two men, who were shaking and bleeding, and administering first aid as organisers tried to calm spectators. The men were bleeding from what appeared to be severe burns, said Hakon Eikesdal, a photographer with the Norwegian newspaper 'Dagbladet'.
Mr Ladyzhenskiy headed a charity fund in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. The fund's spokesman Konstantin Kruglyansky said that his family has demanded an investigation into his death.
Mr Kaukonen, who is aged about 40, was hospitalised in stable condition last night, contest spokesman Ossi Arvela said.
The annual contest had been held since 1999. It will never be held again, Mr Arvela said.
Half a pint of water is added to the stove every 30 seconds and the last person to remain in the sauna is the winner.
There was no prize other than "some small things" Arvela said. He declined to provide details.
Mr Eikesdal said Mr Kaukonen had refused to leave the sauna despite falling sick and that organisers had to force both men out. Sauna bathing is a popular pastime in Finland, which has an estimated 1.6 million saunas for a population of five million.
Temperatures are normally kept around 70-80C.
"I know this is very hard to understand to people outside Finland who are not familiar with the sauna habit," Mr Arvela said.
"It is not so unusual to have 110 degrees in a sauna. A lot of competitors before have sat in higher temperatures than that."
According to a research report from 2008, the annual death rate in Finnish saunas was less than two per 100,000 inhabitants.