Amid inspirational talk, chanted mantras and shouts of victory at a late-night firewalking event attended by thousands Thursday came agonized shrieks from followers whose soles were scorched by the superheated coals, witnesses said.
At least 21 people were treated for burn injuries after taking part in the crowning event of the first day of a Tony Robbins function downtown, including at least three who went to the hospital, a San Jose fire captain said.
The people who suffered various second- and third-degree burn injuries were among more than 6,000 who attended the motivational speaker's event at the San Jose Convention Center called "Unleash the Power Within."
After the event, which ended about 11 p.m., the crowd walked across the street to the park, where 12 lanes of hot coals measuring 10 feet long and 2½-feet wide rested on the grass.
Jonathan Correll, 25, decided to check out what was going on when "I heard wails of pain, screams of agony." He said one young woman appeared to be in so much pain "it was horrific."
"It was people seriously hurting, like they were being tortured," he said. "First one person, then a couple minutes later another one, and there was just a line of people walking on that fire. It was just bizarre, man."
Correll, a San Jose City College student, said he saw between 10 and 15 people being treated. He said he videotaped the scene for about 5 minutes before an event staffertold him to put the camera away.
But on a break from day two of the four-day event Friday night, others who walked on the coals said it was nothing short of life-changing.