They signed up to “Unleash the Power Within,” but they didn’t expect it would come with such a burning sensation. According to the Associated Press, 21 participants suffered burns after walking across hot coals at an event held by motivational speaker Tony Robbins on Thursday. Three of the wounded were burnt so badly that they were rushed to the hospital.
The injuries happened during “The Firewalk Experience” which comprises the first day of “Unleash the Power Within,” Robbins’ flagship three-and-half day seminar, during its stint at the San Jose Convention Center. “The Firewalk Experience” consists of participants walking across a bed of coals heated to an excruciating 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to “learn how to annihilate your fears” and “understand that there is absolutely nothing you cannot overcome,” Robbins’ website explains. Unfortunately, withstanding burnt feet was one thing that some coal-walkers couldn’t really control.
“I just heard these screams of agony,” San Jose resident Jonathan Correll, told the Associated Press. Correll, 25, wasn’t at the event but heard the screams emanating from the convention center, as he stood outside gawking with a fast-growing crowd. “People were in pain. It sounded like people were being tortured,” he said. “It was really just chaos.” Correll saw three ambulances rush to the scene, with some victims being treated by paramedics on the scene and others having to be wheeled away on stretchers.
However, not everyone shared his harrowing version of events. Carolyn Graves, a 50-year old real estate agent from Toronto, claimed that those who were injured “were out of state,” and thus not in the correct frame of mind to walk painlessly across the fiery floor. She glamorized the event to the New York Times, noting that the fire walk “transformed people’s lives in a single night,” serving as a “metaphor for facing your fears and accomplishing your goals.”
Robbins Research International, the San-Diego-based organization behind the “Unleash the Power Within” program, has staunchly defended its inclusion of the fire walk. “More than 6,000 attendees participated in the traditional fire walk across hot coals,” they said in a statement. “We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel.” The fire walk was organized as 24 separate lanes, each eight feet long, that participants were instructed to walk across.
While they admitted that a “small number of our participants experienced pain or minor injuries and sought medical attention,” the organization assured it will “continue to work with local fire and emergency personnel to ensure this event is always done in the safest way possible.”