Australia — The organiser of the Kimberley ultramarathon in which two women almost died in a bushfire has denied criminal negligence and warned a West Australian state parliamentary inquiry that its findings could infringe legal proceedings.
In a lengthy submission to the West Australian Economics and Industry Committee inquiry, Hong Kong-based RacingThePlanet said it was not to blame for the competitors’ extensive burns as they had signed up to the risks.
Kate Sanderson and Turia Pitt suffered 60 to 80 per cent burns in September when they were trapped in a gorge fire during the 100-kilometre adventure race through WA’s remote northern Kimberley. Two male competitors suffered burns from the same blaze. Advertisement: Story continues below
In its supplementary submission, dated May 22, RacingThePlanet also invoked a parliamentary rule to warn that any overlap between the inquiry’s findings and planned legal proceedings could be sub judice.
“RacingThePlanet observes that a solicitor representing three injured competitors has publicly announced he intends to commence proceedings against (the organiser),” the submission states.
“RacingThePlanet submits the sub judice principle should lead the (inquiry) to approach any findings that overlap with questions which will be adjudicated by a court with caution and circumspection.”
A RacingThePlanet spokesman told AAP on Sunday that questions about liability should be left to a court and shouldn’t be specifically addressed by the committee.
“In particular, the extremely serious allegations of reckless and criminal negligence have no foundation – whatsoever – in any evidence received by this committee,” the submission states.
The spokesman said that while “the fire and its consequences are tragic and regrettable” they “were not reasonably foreseeable”.
In its submission, RacingThePlanet states it “greatly regrets the injuries suffered by the competitors”.
“However, the fact of injury does not necessarily lead to finding of fault,” it says.
“That is particularly so where the parliament has provided that WA law permits dangerous recreational activities to take place at the risk of the participants where they enter into an agreement to do so.”
The inquiry heard last week that RacingThePlanet did not contact WA fire authorities until well after the bushfire had swept over the race, and had not fully co-operated with them.
The parliamentary inquiry is expected to release its findings by June 21.