Tragedy struck at the OC Throwdown competition in Southern California on January 12 when Colorado-based competitor Kevin Ogar was left paralyzed from the waist down after what witnesses are describing as a “freak accident.”

The 28-year-old competitior, who is 6’2″ and weighs 210 pounds according to his CrossFit Games athlete profile, was performing a routine snatch when he lost his footing and fell. He dropped the barbell, which bounced off the ground and hit his back, severing his spinal cord. He had been doing CrossFit for two to four years. The OC Throwdown is not an official CrossFit competition, but is a favorite among its athletes in the Southern California community and surrounding region.

A friend who witnessed the incident gave a firsthand account:

“Now, to explain what actually happened. Kevin loaded 235 on his bar, a weight he was more than comfortable hitting for 3 reps. The programming decision to have a 3 rm snatch for load has been debated, but what seems to be lost is that this happened on his first rep, not his third. Kevin had a perfect setup, easily pulled the weight overhead, and dropped into his squat, arms locked out. He began to stand the weight up. Everything was going fine and Kevin was on his way to completing his first rep when suddenly his legs just gave out and he dropped straight down to the floor, landing with heels out, knees bent as he let go of the bar. His torso bent forward, and just after he hit the ground, the bar struck his back, then bounced backward as he collapsed backward between the plates on either side of the back of the platform. The barbell hit him first, then hit the stack of 45lb plates before continuing in the same path backwards. It did not ricochet into his back and he did not fall into the plates. Though the plates were a hazard and could have contributed to an injury, they had nothing to do with Kevin’s freak accident. It is my belief that based on how he landed his body had no more room to give as he was already bent forward. His spine absorbed the full impact of the falling weight while his body was in a compromised position. He jolted upward and then I watched as his body fell backwards, and it became immediately clear that he was gravely hurt. I will never forget the look on his face as he lay there unable to feel or move his legs. He was fully conscious and unfortunately, fully aware of what had just happened to him. It wasn’t until later that evening that we all received confirmation of what we feared. Kevin, I am so sorry that I couldn’t help you in that moment.”

Members of the CrossFit community have bandied around Ogar, who did not have health insurance. They have set up a fund in his name to help cover medical costs. He has undergone two surgeries so far, but still has no movement below the waist.