Woman Burned By Special Olympics Torch, Files Lawsuit

It was supposed to be a torch run to celebrate the Special Olympics. But now a woman is suing, claiming she got burned.

In an on-going lawsuit, Terri Petito of Southington claims she was volunteering in the back of a truck when the torch went out while passing through Waterbury in June 2012.

A now retired Wolcott detective, David Marinelli, tried to re-light it. But the glove he was wearing caught fire, igniting torch fuel that had spilled.

Petito suffered second and third degree burns on up to 14 percent of her body, according to the suit.

“People out trying to do good, everyone involved, and you know it was a tragedy,” said Wolcott Police Chief Edward Stephens.

The crux of the suit is that the Special Olympics, which uses the run to raise awareness and money for athletes, failed to train or supervise all involved and that it didn’t have a safety plan.

Petito sued not just the Special Olympics, but Marinelli, and the town of Wolcott because it employed Marinelli at the time.

When asked for comment, a Special Olympics spokesperson said, “as this is a pending lawsuit, we are not at liberty to comment on the suit or allegations, in any manner.”

In court documents, Marinelli claims he is protected from being sued under a federal law that shields volunteers.

And Wolcott’s mayor says the Special Olympics has offered to pay for Marinelli’s defense.

Marinelli is himself a Special Olympics Hall of Fame inductee.

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