The State Fire Marshal's Office and the West Feliciana Sheriff's Office plan to arrest five employees or contractors of the company that hosted the 2016 Warrior Dash in St. Francisville where a structure collapsed and injured more than 20 participants, said State Fire Marshal Chief Deputy Brant Thompson.
The Oct. 8, 2016 structural crash sparked a months-long investigation into the race's host, Chicago-based Red Frog Events, LLC, and how they constructed and monitored the obstacles, Thompson said.
The investigation determined the collapse of the structure was a result of "shoddy construction" by contractors on behalf of Red Frog Events, Thompson said. Investigators also determined the collapse was the outcome of Red Frog Events' failure to properly monitor the construction of the obstacles and to ensure that safety and emergency procedures were followed during the event, he said.
A wooden dome used as a climbing obstacle in a race collapsed Saturday in St. Francisville, …
Five arrest warrants will be filed Friday morning in the 20th Judicial District Court for both company employees and its contractors, Thompson said, adding that all "in the next coming weeks … (are) expected to turn themselves in." Some of those employees and contractors are no longer affiliated with Red Frog Events, Thompson said, but all were at the time of the incident.
The warrants accuse the contractors of negligent injuring, and the employees of both negligent injury and engaging in business of contracting without authority, Thompson said.
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The 2016 Warrior Dash was held at the West Feliciana Sports Complex in St. Francisville, where contestants maneuvered 12 obstacles spanning the 5K course. There were just under 6,500 people registered to participate in the race, Thompson said.
Near the end of the daylong event, the Diesel Dome obstacle, a large, wooden-ribbed structure, collapsed while a number of participants were in the process of navigating the structure. More than 20 people were injured, some seriously.
Red Frog Events Public Relations Director Lauren King said they have worked closely with Louisiana officials throughout their investigation.
"(We) are eager to see their report," King said. "Since we have not seen the report, we cannot comment on it or the nature of any allegations against specific individuals."
Red Frog Events had planned to return to the venue this coming October, but backed out three weeks ago, said West Feliciana Parish President Kevin Couhig. They had placed a $5,100 nonrefundable deposit for the complex, Couhig said. The entire event cost the company only $1,000 more than the deposit last year.
This October's Warrior Dash has been relocated to Gulfport, Mississippi.
"We thought the Warrior Dash brought a lot of economic activity to the parish," Couhig said. "The Warrior Dash made their own decision to move on to another location. … We don't bear any responsibility for the accident last year; we simply leased the property."
King said the company chose to move the course because Gulfport is more centrally located to the majority of participants.
"We are always scouting new venues to provide the best possible experience to our Warriors," King said. "We look forward to continue to host Louisiana participants."
The State Fire Marshal's Office also investigated the other other 11 obstacles that were on the course last October as well as the overall management of the race, Thompson said.
"We did find deficiencies and problems with those structures as well," Thompson said Thursday evening. "(And) we found there to be a lack of supervision among the event staff."
He said Red Frog Events had in place protocols and plans that were adequate, but they were not executed in the construction of the structures or during the October 2016 event.
Red Frog Events hired two North Carolina-based contracting firms, Peterson Builders Framing Contractors and North South Renovations, to build the obstacles along the course, Thompson said. Neither company held a contractor's license in Louisiana, as is required by law, and both have been fined by the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors.
Contractors Marcus M. Edwards, 47, and Daniel L. Lauber, 47, both of Charlotte, North Carolina, are accused of 13 counts of negligent injuring, Thompson said.
Former and current Red Frog Events employees Megan E. Gaseor, 25, of Norridge, Illinois; Mary A. Kreke, 24, of Frederick, Maryland; and Emily A. Littlejohn, 27, of Dayton, New Jersey, are accused of 13 counts each of negligent injuring and one count of engaging in business of contracting without authority.
Thompson said after they file the warrants Friday morning, the cases will rest with District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla.
Advocate stringer Howard Arceneaux contributed to this report.
Editors note: In a previous version of the story, based on information from the State Fire Marshal's Office, Peterson Builders was incorrectly listed as one of the North Carolina contracting firms allegedly involved in the incident.