Ultra-marathon burns victim wins HK$72m payout from HK adventure company

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 11:53am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 September, 2015, 11:42pm

An Australian woman who was severely disfigured in a bushfire during an ultra-marathon has settled her claim against the Hong Kong-based race organisers, reportedly for A$10 million (HK$72 million).

Turia Pitt suffered burns to 80 per cent of her body after becoming trapped by the fire during Racing The Planet's 100km event in Kimberley, Western Australia, in 2011.

Her lawyer, Greg Walsh, said the former model and engineer, who has spent A$3 million on medical treatment and undergone numerous operations, was "very happy" at settling out of court with the organisers.

Racing The Planet, based in Sheung Wan, did not admit liability for the incident, Walsh said.

"Turia is very relieved and very happy that the matter has finally been settled and she can put this behind her," he said. "It's not about recrimination or blaming others, it's about getting on with her life. It's a long battle. She's been under a lot of stress."

Walsh would not comment on the size of the payout, but said the money would "help a lot" as Pitt, 26, needed further surgery.

The West Australian newspaper said the settlement was about A$10 million.

Pitt was scarred for life and left unrecognisable by the blaze that trapped her in a valley. She also lost four fingers and a thumb.

Kate Sanderson, another runner trapped by the fire, needed to have her left foot amputated. She reportedly settled with Racing The Planet last year.

Both women received "act of grace" payments of A$450,000 from the West Australian government in 2012 after an official inquiry found "critical shortcomings" by the organisers.

The inquiry found Racing The Planet had been aware of fires in the area before the race but had failed to consult authorities about whether the course should be moved or the event cancelled.

The race featured 41 runners - most from Australia but also three from Hong Kong and some from Malaysia and South Africa.

Racing The Planet has staged more than 35 events in remote locations over the past 12 years.

Its chief executive, American Mary Gadams, started the company in Hong Kong in 2002. She also suffered second-degree burns to her hands, arms and legs in the fire.

Racing The Planet declined to comment.