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Seven people receive prison sentences for ultramarathon tragedy

By CUI JIA | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-12-15 21:24

Rescuers carry out search operations in Jingtai county of Baiyin city in Northwest China's Gansu province. [Photo/CCTV]

Seven people received prison sentences on Friday for their respective roles in organizing the mountain ultramarathon event in Baiyin city, Gansu province in 2021 that killed 21 runners - one of the deadliest tragedies in China's marathon competition history.

The marathoners-some among China's most prominent athletes-died in extreme weather during the annual mountain ultramarathon held in the Yellow River Stone Forest scenic area on May 22, 2021.

Five organizers of the event were sentenced by the People's Court of Baiyin District in Baiyin to prison for three to five and a half years for the crime of causing a severe safety accident in large-scale mass activities. Meanwhile, former director and deputy director of the organizing committee of the scenic area who should have supervised the event received prison sentences for four years and 10 months and three and a half years from the People's Court of Chengguan district in the provincial capital of Lanzhou for the crime of neglect of duty and taking bribes.

The tragedy came after a round of hail, freezing rain and high winds caught 172 lightly dressed marathon runners off guard as they were racing across windy mountainous tracks in the central part of Gansu.

Local officials said temperatures fell sharply at around 1 pm, when most participants were 20 to 30 kilometers into the 100-km race.

The race was immediately halted as many runners began showing symptoms including body temperature loss, they added.

Among the victims was Liang Jing, a 31-year-old celebrated figure in the Chinese cross-country marathon scene.

The disaster spurred accusations that the organizers weren't prepared for potential weather risks. Several participants said at the time that there were organizational flaws in the event as softshells and jackets being removed from the list of compulsory gear for runners, leaving them vulnerable to abrupt weather changes.

Baiyin first hosted the cross-country race in 2018 at the geopark as part of a local publicity drive. The route would take runners through canyons and hills on an arid plateau at an elevation of more than 1,000 meters.

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