Skip to main content

Sweat lodge survivor recalls screams

Click to play
Sweat lodge survivor speaks
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sweat lodge survivor describes chaotic scene inside sauna-like conditions
  • James Arthur Ray says he feels peoples' pain, vows to continue programs
  • Three people died after spending time in sweat lodge as part of Ray's program
  • Arizona authorities investigating case as homicide
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) -- A woman who was inside a "sweat lodge" at an Arizona retreat where three people died this month described people vomiting and screaming.

"Everybody was throwing up everywhere. There was spitting going on. ... People were so disoriented they were screaming at one point," said Beverly Bunn of Texas.

Three people died after spending time in the sweat lodge October 8 and nearly 20 others were injured. Two were pronounced dead shortly after they arrived at a local hospital and a third died October 17 after being hospitalized since the incident.

Bunn described a scene of horror and confusion inside the dome-like structure, which was covered with tarps and blankets and had hot rocks and water inside to create steam.

"I saw all of these people lying around and mucus coming out of their nose and mouth and eyes rolled back in their heads."

There were as many as 65 visitors, ages 30 to 60, attending the program at the resort. They spent as long as two hours inside the sweat lodge.

The self-help expert who ran the program said it has been a "difficult" period but that he will continue his schedule of events despite the deaths.

James Arthur Ray, who ran the "Spiritual Warrior" program at the Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona, also addressed the families of those who died.

"I feel your pain. I accept your anger. And I pray for you all to have some measure of peace and comfort," Ray wrote Tuesday on his blog. "I want you to know that I too want to know what happened that caused this horrible tragedy. My team and I are working with the appropriate authorities and have even hired our own investigators to find out the truth."

Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh told reporters October 15 the sweat lodge was meant to be a "spiritual awakening" exercise for participants in the "Spiritual Warrior" program.

Bunn said the sauna-like conditions got to several of the people inside.

"They were yelling and yelling, yelling at this man because he was so disoriented that he actually started crawling into the pit with the hot rocks."

Watch what woman saw in sweat lodge

Native Americans used sweat lodges in spiritual and physical purification ceremonies.

"These have been the most difficult 10 days of our lives," Ray wrote. "People are throwing out accusations and disparaging me and our mission. Yet despite that, and despite considerable criticism, I have chosen to continue with my work. It's too important not to."

Ray is widely known for programs that claim to teach people how to create wealth from all aspects of their lives -- financially, mentally, physically, and spiritually. He has appeared on various national programs in the United States, including CNN's "Larry King Live."

A homicide investigation into the incident is under way, authorities have said.

Lawyers.com Lexis Nexis Logo

Law firm search