Expert rules out heat factor in RTI deaths

2013-08-26 20:54
Harry Gwala Stadium (Picture: The Witness)

Harry Gwala Stadium (Picture: The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Environmental factors did not cause the deaths of people who took part in a KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) fitness test, an inquiry heard on Monday.

Cape Town university expert Timothy Noakes said if environmental factors were lethal, thousands of people would have died.

"The rule is that humans can exercise under hot conditions. Here we are dealing with the exception and not the rule," he said.

He was testifying in Pietermaritzburg before a commission of inquiry into the deaths of eight people after an RTI fitness test in the city in December last year.

The victims took part in a 4km run at Harry Gwala Stadium. The event formed part of a fitness test for RTI job applicants.

More than 35 000 people qualified to apply for 90 advertised RTI trainee posts.

Of these, 15 600 attended a fitness test on 27 December, and a similar number on 28 December.

Weather conditions on the first day were about 30°C with 60% humidity, and 27.2°C with a humidity of about 50% on the second day.

Noakes said humans had a massive capacity to exercise in heat.

A healthy person should not develop heat stroke when exercising in heat unless there were other factors, such as drugs, chronic illness, genetic predispositions, and food eaten before the run.

"When something goes wrong there is a catastrophe in the system," he said.

Noakes said the brain warned the body to slow down when exercising in excessive heat.

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