PITTSBURGH - An award-winning veteran reporter is suing energy drink manufacturer Red Bull, its Pittsburgh partners and a public relations firm after suffering serious injuries allegedly caused during a media event ahead of the city's 2017 Flugtag.
David Crawley, a reporter for CBS affiliate KDKA, said he was pushed off a 22-foot pier in one of the event's signature "flight" contraptions. He was later taken to Mercy Hospital for life-saving surgery.
He is suing Red Bull, Pittsburgh partner organization EQT Regatta and London PR firm M&C Saatchi and Saatchi, claiming fraud, nondisclosure and gross negligence.
"Red Bull has a long history of hosting major public events, and the safety of spectators and participants is always our primary concern," Red Bull Director of Corporate Communications Erin Mand said in an email to the Pennsylvania Record.
Crawley, in his complaint filed with the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, cited multiple examples of participants and spectators being injured at Flugtag events in the United States and around the world, and added that a child died at one gathering in Trinidad and Tobago.
Most of these happened prior to discussions for the event to be staged in Pittsburgh for the first time in 2017. The first Flugtag event took place in 1991.
At the core of the complaint is the allegation that at no time were the public or the media, including Crawley, told of previous incidents that happened at other events. The complaint cites a "Professional Media Permit and Release Agreement" that includes a bar on the publication or distribution of any photographs or footage of injury or death.
Just ahead of Flugtag, organizers floated the idea of a "media craft" where two journalists would separately take part in a "flight." Crawley, who is 70, was assigned by his station.
In his complaint, the reporter said he did not want the assignment but, "after being passed over for stories" because of his health and age, felt compelled to do so.
He said he trusted the organizers but was given no the information on the history of injuries linked to the events, including, just prior to the jump, an injury suffered by another reporter.
Crawley said he thought he could jump feet-first into the water but at the last minute realized that this was more difficult because of the nature of the craft, according to the complaint. Crawley said he was "shoved ... forcefully" off the pier and ended up heading flat into the water, with the impact causing blunt force trauma.
Although ill, he continued to work, but 17 days after the event, he collapsed on the job at Duquesne University, the complaint states. He was taken to Mercy Hospital, where doctors performed emergency surgery for serious spleen injuries, Crawley said. He has not worked since.
All defendants are accused of fraud for "willfully, intentionally, fraudulently, and with reckless indifference" for misrepresenting and concealing facts.
They are further accused of failing to disclose the history of danger and injury linked to the event, and gross negligence for putting Crawley at "unreasonable risk of bodily harm."
His wife, Laurel Herman, is also suing, claiming loss of consortium.