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James Ray speaks out after sweat lodge tragedy that killed Milw. man

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(CNN) -- He was once a beloved self-help guru. Now, James Ray is working to rebuild his life after serving 20 months in prison in connection with the deaths of three of his followers -- and he's speaking out about the tragedy at the sweat lodge that left a Milwaukee man dead.

"I'd say I'm sorry. I'm extremely sorry for what happened," Ray told CNN's Piers Morgan.

The former self-help guru fought back tears, reliving the scene inside the sweat lodge four years ago -- an event that killed three of his loyal followers and sent him to prison for 20 months.

"It was my event. It was my lodge. I was the captain of the ship. I have to take responsibility for that," Ray said.

He called it the spiritual warrior weekend, culminating in a ceremonial sauna that was supposed to signify cleansing and rebirth, but the sweltering temperatures inside reaching up to 120 degrees resulted in tragedy.

Convicted of negligent homicide in 2011, Ray addressed allegations that he ignored participants collapsing, vomiting and screaming for help.

"I didn't see any of those things. Those things were happening outside the lodge. I didn't know that anyone was in a life or death situation," Ray said.

However, the prosecution even argued that Ray encouraged participants to come back inside the deadlly sauna against their own instincts.

"Every 15 minutes, we opened the flaps and people were free to come and go. Some people wanted to quickly exit, and I told them to leave clockwise carefully, because there's a pit of hot rocks in the center," Ray said.

The punishing heat generated by water poured over a pit of hot rocks sent 21 overcome people rushing for help.

"I had systems in place and the systems broke down," Ray said.

Now a free man, he didn't rule out returning to the self-help industry, but this time more humbled than before.

"Was I arrogant? YEs. People fly in all over the world and ask me how to have a better life and it tends to go to your head. You tend to think you've got all the answers," Ray said.

Ray says he has lost "everything" as a result of the tragedy. If he does return to the self-help industry, he insists he has "no intention" of ever participating in another sweat lodge ceremony.

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