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Former Employee: Ray Did Not Help People Dying in Sweat Lodge

In an exclusive interview former employee said the self-help guru only watched.

ByABC News via logo
December 8, 2009, 8:14 AM

Dec. 8, 2009— -- Self-help guru James Arthur Ray did nothing to help the people who had collapsed inside his Sedona, Ariz., sweat lodge two months ago in an incident that killed three people, according to Melinda Martin, a former employee.

"He came out and he stretched his arms up and everybody hosed him off and he's like, 'Hey thanks!'… and it really stopped me in my tracks. I just stopped, and I said, 'How can you walk out of there with all these people down, and they're, they just looked near death, and you guys can walk out there looking like you just spent the day in the spa,'" Martin said in an exclusive interview with ABC News.

Fire-heated rocks filled the 400-square-foot makeshift tent with steam while more than 60 participants crammed inside while Ray led them in a spiritual ceremony. The guests paid nearly $10,000 to spend the week with Ray at the retreat.

Martin said that while people were being dragged out from the tent in front of him, Ray neither stopped the ceremony nor helped afterward as Martin performed CPR on the dying.

"And I look up, and he's standing right over my head, watching. He's watching from a standing position. He didn't offer to help. He didn't say anything, nothing at all," Martin said, adding that she did not see Ray help anyone.

Several weeks after the deadly event Martin said she stopped receiving pay checks from the company.

Some participants inside have said some people inside were saying "We need water," vomiting and fighting to stay alive.

Kirby Brown, 38; James Shore, 40; and Liz Neuman, 49; died in the incident.

In response to Martin's comments, Ray's company said in a statement to ABC News that Ray tried to help, according to the information the company collected from employees and event participants during its private investigation:

"According to the signed statement of one participant, 'my impression was that James Ray was stunned about what was happening and was attempting to help as many people as he could. I do not feel there was any more James Ray could have done.' The signed statement of a second participant said that 'I realize that what has happened is a horrible tragedy, but I do not feel that James Ray is responsible for what has occurred.' Finally, the signed statement of a JRI employee indicates that 'the press reports stating that James abandoned the participants that night are completely false.'"

In his most recent public comments on the incident, Ray posted a statement on his Web site Nov. 30, 2009: "As you know, I've asked members of my team to travel to Arizona, meet with authorities there and provide all the information they have to offer. That process has gone on for the last two weeks, and we believe it's been helpful. Of course, if additional information is required, my team is ready to provide it in our continuing hope that the causes of the Sedona accident can be determined as quickly and authoritatively as possible."

For more on this story tune into "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET/ PT.