Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Racers 'should pay' for rescue


John Ashton says Cumbria was left with the bill

Organisers of major events in the Lake District should be forced to pay for any clean-up or rescue operations, a senior health official has said.

The call, by Cumbria's director of public health, followed a huge rescue effort to find hundreds of marathon runners over the weekend.

All 2,500 entrants were accounted for, but not before hundreds of thousands of pounds was spent by emergency services.

Prof John Ashton said organisers should have insurance to cover rescue costs.

The organisers of the two-day Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) endurance race, which was hit by treacherous weather conditions, denied ignoring police advice to call off the event.

Hundreds of OMM competitors were forced to take refuge in barns and other shelters after a month's rain fell in one day.

Mountain rescue teams in Borrowdale
Scores of rescuers were involved in the search operation

Police, mountain rescuers and RAF crews spent hours searching for competitors who were scattered across dozens of miles of Cumbria countryside.

Prof Ashton, who works for Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Primary Care Trust, said: "It makes me think that we need to look again at what happens with these big events and the responsibilities of organisers.

"If there is a weather forecast that says that people should not be going out, should that now have a legal basis so people should have indemnity insurance?

"This would ensure we can recover the costs the same way we do with road traffic accidents and events like the Great North Run.

"In a way, they have just parachuted into the Lake District, done their bit and gone away.

"They didn't spend any money. They came in their cars and went in their cars and just left Cumbria with a big bill."

Allerdale Council, which is responsible for the area where the marathon started, said it was not involved in the event as it did not require a license.

The National Trust and Lake District National Park Authority, which own much of the land used by the runners, also said they had not been involved.

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