A Chinese government official appears to have jumped to his death during an investigation into the deaths of 21 runners last month when icy rain and strong winds hit the mountain on which they competed in an ultramarathon, state television reported on Friday.
CCTV reported that police were informed on Wednesday that a man had jumped from his apartment and died. An investigation revealed that he was the secretary of the Jingtai County Communist Party, Li Zuobi. Murder is ruled out, it says.
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On Friday, the Gansu government in western China punished 27 employees by posthumously releasing Li but firing his deputy, Zhang Wenling, CCTV reported. Two other lower-ranking officials were detained pending further investigation, while the others received administrative penalties, demotions, warnings and deficiencies.
A report issued by the province found a lack of adequate event planning and an inability to respond effectively after weather conditions deteriorated dramatically during the May 22 race, it said.
The organizing committee failed to implement its competition management protocols and was guilty of being “too formalistic and bureaucratic,”
The racers ran 100 kilometers (62 miles), partly along an extremely narrow mountain trail, at an altitude of up to 2,000-3,000 meters (6,500-9,800 feet) at the Yellow Yellow Stone Forest in Bayin, Gansu.
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Reports say $ 150,000 has been offered for each victim, but some family members have rejected the amount, saying many have died as breadwinners and are at the top of their sport. Among those killed was the famous runner Liang Jing, who won a 100-kilometer (62-mile) race in the Gobi Desert.
While the race had been held several times before, runners were apparently surprised by the cold weather and difficult conditions on steep unpaved trails made up of a combination of rocks and sand.
Against the backdrop of icy rain and strong winds, about 50 of the more than 170 athletes were sheltered in traditional cave dwellings maintained by shepherds. An all-night rescue mission brought most of them to safety, although several had to be hospitalized.