Former Australian model who suffered horrific burns in bushfire during long distance race receives 300,000 from state government

  • Model received 64% burns and had four fingers and a thumb amputated
  • Payout given to Ultramarathon runner and another woman as 'Act of Grace'
  • Two male runners who also suffered burns did not get pay-outs

By Richard Shears


Her masked face, hiding hideous burns she received when she was caught up in a bushfire during a marathon run, shocked Australia.

Now former model Turia Pitt and another runner, Kate Sanderson, who, like Miss Pitt suffered burns to more than 60 per cent of her body, are each to be awarded 300,000 as an ‘Act of Grace’.

The Western Australia Tourism Minister Dr Kim Hames said today that the money was to ‘assist in alleviating their financial stress while they explore other options.’

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Former model Turia Pitt, who was severely burnt in a bush fire while competing in a marathon in Australia

Ultramarathon runner Turia Pitt, who was severely burnt in a bushfire, gives evidence at the inquiry, in Perth, Australia in May. She and another woman have been awarded 300,000 after suffering horrific injuries in the fire on September 2 last year

Miss Pitt, 24, who was working in mining engineering when she entered a marathon race in outback Australia, told an inquiry that she wasn’t even planning to enter the event because she thought the 1,000 entry fee was ridiculous.

But two weeks before the marathon on September 2 last year, she was invited by organisers to compete for free.


She was joined in the event by adventure enthusiast 36-year-old Miss Sanderson and 40 other runners who were destined to run across the parched outback Kimberley region of north west Australia.

But part-way through the race Miss Pitt and Miss Sanderson, along with two male competitors, became trapped by a bushfire in a narrow, rocky gorge.

Turia Pitt, 24, as she was when she was a Miss Earth Australia contestant, prior to suffering from burns in a marathon race, the Ultramarathon runner suffered burns to 64 per cent of her body

Turia Pitt, 24, as she was - a Miss Earth Australia contestant - prior to suffering from burns to 64 per cent of her body, when a bushfire struck during the Ultramarathon

Turia Pitt, Miss Earth Australia contestant on campus at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia before the bushfire, which left her severely burnt.

Miss Pitt on campus at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia

Miss Pitt’s injuries were so bad that not only did she suffer burns to 64 per cent of her body, she also had four fingers from her left hand and her right thumb amputated.

Miss Sanderson had to have her left foot amputated, lost part of her earlobes and part of her right index finger.

They told an inquiry earlier this year they had no idea they were running into danger because the organisers had spoken only ‘in passing’ about spot fires.

Miss Pitt said she and Miss Sanderson would have died at the gorge if not for a risky rescue mission undertaken by a helicopter crew.

Announcing the state government’s decision to pay the women 300,000 each, Dr Hames said:

‘The terrible tragedy that occurred on September 2, 2011, is something with which we can all empathise.

‘But no-one can truly appreciate the pain, ,suffering and disfigurement that Miss Pitt and Miss Sanderson have endured and will continue to experience for the remainder of their lives.’

He said an ‘act of grace’ payment was appropriate for the women.

Two male runners who also received serious burns and required skin grafts will not receive compensation as their circumstances were not as ‘extraordinary’, it was decided.

VIDEO: Survivor speaks about her ultra marathon fire ordeal


The comments below have been moderated in advance.

What a small amount of money. She should have received millions.

Click to rate     Rating   3

she was awarded the money because the organisers knew there was a bush fire in the region and still let competitors run straight into a horrendous bush fire. So to the comments below no she really wasnt at fault or in charge of her own safety she wasnt aware there was a fire unlike the organisers

Click to rate     Rating   3

It wasn't the government's fault that these people were burned, so why the cash awards? Even more to the point, if the men were in exactly the same situation and injured as badly, why did they not also get something? However, if anyone was to blame for what was presumably a natural phenomenon, it would be the race organisers who seem to have been irresponsible in this matter and so it is they who should be paying compensation.

Click to rate     Rating   1

Eh? why is this coming from the government and taxpayers - and not the organisers of the race?

Click to rate     Rating   6

Your beauty has always been there and always will be. what a lovely brave lady. Lots of love. x

Click to rate     Rating   7

This amount is nowhere near enough-3 or 4 million would be more reasonable. Those men should have received money also. Very sad.

Click to rate     Rating   3

Wow... that's an encouragement to us all! good luck you guys!

Click to rate     Rating   2

Whilst Race the Planet was the organiser the race competitors entered precisely because it was a remote and challenging event and signed disclaimers to that effect. However the region was beset by fires days before and on the day of the event , the local authority who gave permission for the event were nowhere to be seen did not asses the risk and had no emergency services on standby or anywhere near the locations. The race decended into chaos once the fires burned out a checkpoint and it was only the skill and bravery of the photo helicopter pilot that got the injured to hospital otherwise it was a long haul by 4WD for others after a considerable wait. Government has paid this money knowing full well their culpability and the resultant shoddy effort by their departments in the Kimberley. Money alone won't solve the problems for these victims nor will it stop it happening again unless lethargic local authorities in WA are held to account for their total incompetence.

Click to rate     Rating   2

To all the negative comments on here, you should really dig a bit deeper, the government and the organisers are BOTH at fault here. They didn't have the correct safety procedures or knowledge in place. They chose to start the event even though their was bushfires in the area. They chose to start even though local CFA told them not to. They did not pass this information onto the competitors. If you pay $1000 to enter an event you expect that money to go towards proper support and safety. The helicopter that rescued them had nothing to do with the event, they didn't have adequate safety equipment in the area. All 4 competitors deserve everything they get and more. The event organisers will not take any responsibility and cannot be sued in Australia. How many other badly run and dangerous events are people partaking in.

Click to rate     Rating   3

Whilst I have every sympathy for the injuries suffered by these people I don't see why the Western Australian taxpayer has to foot the bill for compensation. This tragedy was caused by a bush fire, which are commonplace in Australia. The organisers of the event should have had public liability insurance which should cover injuries sustained by any competitor during the race. I also find it very strange that personal Health Insurance wasn't mandatory before commencing an event like this. Accidents can happen anywhere, but in an event like this I would imagine it only common sense to take out your own personal Insurance against injury.

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