10 Contest Ends Deaths

Tragic Contest Deaths

1. Student in pancake-eating contest died of asphyxia

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The New Jersey college student who fatally choked during a pancake-eating contest died of asphyxia, the New York City chief medical examiner’s office ruled.

Caitlin Nelson, the 20-year-old daughter of a Port Authority cop who lost his life on 9/11, was participating in the charity contest at her school, Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., on March 30 when she choked after eating several pancakes and collapsed.

She was rushed to a local hospital in critical condition, and was transferred to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, where she died Sunday. The medical examiner’s office said the official cause of death was “asyphyxia due to obstruction of airway by bolus of food.”

Nelson was a junior at Sacred Heart, where she majored in social work and served as the vice president of community service at the school’s Kappa Delta sorority.

Her dad, James Nelson, died while evacuating people from one of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Like her father, right up until the end she was giving of herself, and proof of that is her organs are all being donated,” Robert Egbert, a spokesman for the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, told The Post earlier this week.

2. Man (42) chokes to death at doughnut-eating challenge in second doughnut eating-related death in one week

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A 42-year-old man has choked to death while taking part in a doughnut-eating contest.

Denver man Travis Malouff died during the contest that requires participants to consume a half-pound of glazed doughnut in less than two minutes, authorities and media said on Monday.

Reuters reported that Mr Malouff died on Sunday "from asphyxia, due to obstruction of the airway," at the Voodoo Doughnut shop, the office of the Denver medical examiner said in a statement.

The doughnut was the "size of a small cake", witness Julia Edelstein told local TV stations.

Winners of the contest get the doughnut for free and a button saying they won the challenge.

Voodoo Doughnuts, said they are now suspending the contest, according to statement given to Denver news station KUSA-TV.

Mr Malouff's death occurred in the same week as 20-year-old Caitlin Nelson, who choked at a separate event in Connecticut on March 30.

“She starts to choke on pancake on someone recognized it — one of the nursing students at the competition — and she caught her and brought her slowly to the ground,” Fairfield police Lt. Robert Kalamaras told The New York Post.

“And then she began CPR, basic life support, until officers showed up less than two minutes after the emergency call was made by one of the nursing students.”

Ms Nelson was rushed to hospital but died three days later.

In a Facebook tribute to her, a family member said it was the second tragedy to hit the family.

“Heaven got another angel and we are sad beyond belief for Caitlin’s family,” one user wrote. “No family should have to endure the loss of a child ever and they already lost her dad on 9/11, it’s heart wrenching.”

Ms Nelson’s father, James, was a Port Authority police officer who died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center when Caitlin was just 5-years-old.

3. Two shot dead after they open fire at Mohammed cartoon event in Texas

Two men who opened fire outside a contest for Prophet Mohammed cartoons in a Dallas suburb were shot dead by police Sunday night, authorities said.

The men drove up to the Culwell Event Center in North Garland, got out of their car and began shooting just as the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest" inside was coming to an end, Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said.

An unarmed security guard was shot in the leg. He was later treated and released from a hospital.

Police who were helping with security at the event fired back, killing both gunmen.

"The first suspect was shot immediately," Garland Mayor Douglas Athas told CNN. "The second suspect was wounded and reached for his backpack. He was shot again."
The gunmen's identities weren't immediately released.

"We have no other indication that anyone else was involved," Athas said.

FBI and local officials were checking on the gunmen's vehicle for explosives and the area around the center was blocked off.
Surrounding businesses, including a Walmart, were evacuated, as were attendees from the Curtis Culwell Center.
There is no immediate threat to the area, police said late Sunday night.
The check for explosives was a precautionary measure and could take some time.
"It's a very slow, tedious operation that goes on," Harn said.

Heavy security for event
The event was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is considered an anti-Muslim group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

The group said it specifically picked the venue, a public school-owned facility, because it was host to a event denouncing Islamophobia in January.

The Sunday night event invited cartoonists to send in cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. The group said it received more than 350 submissions. The winner stood to win $10,000.

There were about 200 people at the event, police said.

"Most of the people who were there were from out of state," Athas said.

Security was tight. The school district brought in extra officers, and the group itself hired several more.

Only those who purchased tickets ahead of time were admitted. They had to go through metal detectors.
"We were prepared for something like this," Harn, the police spokesman, said.

Depiction considered blasphemy
While details about the gunmen, including their religion or their motive, weren't immediately known, depictions of Prophet Mohammed are considered blasphemous by many Muslims.

The prohibition against illustrating the Prophet Mohammed began as an attempt to ward off idol worship, which was widespread in Islam's Arabian birthplace. But in recent years, it has taken a deadly toll.

In January, gunmen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine that has a controversial history of depicting Mohammad, and killed 12 people.

The next month, a gunman attacked a free speech forum in Copenhagen, Denmark, featuring cartoonist, Larks Vilks, who infuriated al Qaeda with his depictions of Mohammed.

In the United States, cartoonist Molly Norris is still in hiding, four years after she depicted the likeness of Mohammed on several items, and was deemed a "prime target" for execution by Islamic extremists.
Shortly after the Sunday night shooting, a prominent Muslim leader in Dallas said tweeted that the incident was "just what we didn't want."

"The community stayed away from event," wrote Imam Zia Sheikh. "Seems like a lone wolf type of attack. Just what we didn't want."

'This is a war'
The keynote speaker at the Garland event was right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders who was placed on an al Qaeda hit list for his film "Fitna."

The film, which Wilders released online in March 2008 to international outcry, features disturbing images of terrorist acts superimposed over verses from the Quran in an apparent attempt to paint Islam as a threat to Western society.

In 2011, Wilders was cleared on charges of inciting discrimination and hatred over a controversial film he made about Islam.

The group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, is considered an anti-Muslim group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

Its president, Pamela Geller, is "the anti-Muslim movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead," the SPLC says.

Geller took to her own website shortly after the incident, writing, "This is a war. This is war on free speech."

4. Family sues ABQ nightclub after woman in corn dog contest chokes, dies

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Jessie Harbeck and her mother, Debra Harbeck, just wanted to celebrate with drinks the night before Jessie’s 22nd birthday in January.

Hours later, Jessie ended up spending part of her birthday taking her mother off life support after the highly intoxicated woman choked during a risque corn dog eating contest at a now-defunct Albuquerque nightclub.

Now Jessie, her father and her grandmother are suing the club, Fire and Ice, and others connected to the property and its liquor license, in a complaint for wrongful death filed in Santa Fe District Court. It alleges, among other things, that the club served her too much liquor.

According to the complaint, Fire and Ice “held a corn dog eating contest where female contestants got on their knees in front of males who were holding corn dogs near their groin area” on Jan. 27.

“The winner of the corn dog eating contest won a prize by eating the corn dog the fastest,” the complaint says.

Jessie Harbeck told the Journal on Tuesday that her mother paired up with one of Jessie’s friends for the contest. Debra began choking on the corn dog, and patrons rushed to apply the Heimlich maneuver and CPR before paramedics got there.

“The choking caused the loss of oxygen to her brain before medical personnel could be there,” said Albuquerque lawyer Gene Chavez, who filed the lawsuit for the Harbecks. “Her body fought valiantly, but the damage was irreparable.”

The lawsuit says Debra Harbeck, 56, was intoxicated, had been over-served at the bar and should not have been allowed to take part in the eating contest. The suit also argues the club should have had medical personnel on hand for the contest.

The family pulled Debra from life support on Jan. 28, Jessie’s actual birthday, and Debra died at 12:22 p.m. the next day.

“My dad wanted to wait to pull the plug until midnight of my birthday so that she wouldn’t die on my birthday,” Jessie said. “I told him my one birthday wish was for her to not suffer. I knew she was in pain, and I didn’t want her suffering anymore.”

Chavez says the club didn’t supervise the contest well enough in allowing such an intoxicated person to take part. Debra had a blood alcohol content between 0.13 and 0.14 percent, according to the suit. She had been served “three double shots & four double gin and tonics,” the suit says.

The complaint maintains Debra Harbeck was at a “fatal or near-fatal level of intoxication,” although the BAC described in the court complaint is less than twice New Mexico’s presumed level of intoxication for drivers, 0.08 percent.

“Quite honestly, they did not cut her off,” Jessie said. “She was pretty intoxicated when I got there. The bar did not take the initiative to get her to stop drinking.” Jessie said she had a designated driver so she could enjoy her birthday, and she said she took her mother’s keys and told her she would drive her home because she was drunk.

Chavez said its common for eating contests around the country to have medical personnel nearby in case someone starts choking or has another medical problem.

Jessie and Anthony Harbeck, Debra’s husband, are suing PKG Investments LLC, which the suit says was operating as Fire and Ice at Montgomery and Eubank.

Also named are Anodyne Corp., which was leasing its liquor license to PKG, according to the suit, and Hinkle Investments LLC, which owns the property Fire and Ice was leasing. The suit can be filed in Santa Fe because the estate’s “personal representative” is in the capital city.

No one connected to the club ownership as described in the suit could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Jessie said Debra was an active supporter of the fire and police departments in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties. Her husband is retired from Phoenix Fire Department, and Debra made quilts and donated them to fire departments or to the homeless.

Jessie was an only child, and her relationship with her mother extended beyond a normal mother-daughter relationship, she said.

“She was my best friend,” Jessie said. “She was my support system.”

5. Florida man who died after live cockroach eating contest choked: medical examiner

The Florida man who collapsed and died last month after gobbling dozens of roaches and worms at an insect-eating contest choked to death, medical examiners found.

Edward Archbold, 32, gagged and heaved violently outside the Ben Siegel Reptile store in Deerfield Beach shortly after the Oct. 5 contest ended, as piles of bugs he had just eaten became lodged in his windpipe, the Broward County Medical Examiner said Monday.

Archbold died later at a hospital. Toxicology reports showed no lethal substances in his system, and the cause of death was listed as an accident, local WPTV reported.

Archbold, of West Palm Beach, was one of 30 contestants who participated in the bug noshing contest at the store, about 40 miles of north of Miami.

The grand prize was an expensive ball python.

Archbold is seen in a video as he celebrates winning a roach-eating contest at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
All the contestants signed a waiver beforehand and were forbidden from drinking alcohol, the Sun Sentinel newspaper reported.

Ben Siegel, the shop’s owner, said the bugs the contestants ate were not wild, but raised in captivity as pet feed.

He told the Sun Sentinel that Archbold was “a super nice guy.”

"He was outgoing. He was the life of the party," Siegel said.

6. Tough Mudder Death Involving Md. Man Prompts Lawsuit

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A Maryland woman whose son drowned last year along an obstacle course in West Virginia has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the organizers of the Tough Mudder event.

The lawsuit filed by Mita Sengupta alleges Tough Mudder LLC failed to follow basic safety precautions that led to the April 2013 death of Avishek Sengupta, 28, of Ellicott City, Maryland.

The death occurred a day after he was pulled from the water pit on the “Walk the Plank” obstacle at the Peacemaker National Training Center in Glengary. The obstacle involves climbing up a wooden wall to a platform, then jumping 15 feet into a water pit. A medical examiner ruled he drowned.

Tough Mudder didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Peacemaker National, event water rescue coordinator Amphibious Medics and corporate sponsor General Mills, are also named in the lawsuit, declined comment, along with rescue diver Travis Pittman, who didn’t have a listed telephone number.

It marked the first fatality for Brooklyn, New York-based Tough Mudder, which debuted in 2010 and holds dozens of events worldwide each year. It had two such events in Glengary last year and will stage another there on Sept. 27-28. Portions of the 11-mile course also run through Virginia.

Tough Mudder participants must be at least 18 years old and sign a liability waiver.

The lawsuit said in response to complaints on social media from participants, event organizers took steps to reduce wait times and increase the flow of participants through the obstacle, including abandoning or failing to adopt certain safety measures that led to Sengupta’s death.

The lawsuit said the obstacle was overcrowded, had no lane divider to prevent participants from hitting each other after jumping, had no system of tracking participants from the time they jumped until the time they exited the pool. It also said there was only one volunteer at the obstacle.

“The lone volunteer atop the platform … was ordering participants to jump off the platform while his back was turned to the water, so that he had no idea whether or not the pool was clear of participants below,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said immediately after Sengupta left the platform, a woman jumped onto Sengupta in the pool and the collision prevented Sengupta from surfacing. No safety personnel noticed. The platform volunteer allowed three additional jumps.

An investigation report previously released by the Berkeley County sheriff’s department concluded there was no indication Sengupta had been struck before or after entering the pit. Citing witness accounts, the report said members of Sengupta’s group became frantic when he didn’t emerge, and several minutes elapsed before he was pulled from the pit’s cold, muddy waters.

The lawsuit said Pittman wasn’t wearing his rescue equipment when he was summoned and didn’t enter the water until more than 2 minutes after Sengupta went under.

Following the death, Tough Mudder said safety procedures on the course were closely examined. Additional safety rails were added to “Walk the Plank” and lifeguards changed their focus to specific areas of the pit.

The Journal of Martinsburg first reported the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and was filed April 18.

7. Of course somebody died of alcohol poisoning in a 'drinking competition' in Henan

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The organizers of a Henan drinking competition have been forced to pay out RMB447,642 in compensation for the death of a participant in last year's event, which was ruled a case of alcohol poisoning.

The "competitive binge-drinking session," as China Daily describes it, was held by the Henan Alcohol Association, and rewarded participants who were able to drink the most and drink it the fastest - in other words, it was essentially an alcohol poisoning contest, and this guy tried a bit too hard to win.

Wang Qiang said he "felt weird' after participating in the drink-a-thon, which sounds about right. What wasn't right, however, was that Wang then needed to be sent to the hospital, where he eventually died from alcohol intoxication.

The event was held in Luoyang, Henan Province. No word yet if the competition will be held again this year, although we wouldn't recommend keeping your hopes up. Fortunately, we hear that drinking contests are easy enough to coordinate independently of the Henan Alcohol Association.

8. Longview Police Say "Hardbody" Contestant Killed Himself

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A frightening scene involving the Longview Hands on a Hardbody contest early Thursday morning. Police say a contestant killed himself in front of them at a local store.

He was contestant number 4. Quiet, soft spoken and well liked. But shortly before the 6:00 a.m. break, 24-year-old Richard Vega of Tyler took his hands off the hardbody truck and began walking across the street to K-mart.

"When I talked to Ricky this morning, he seemed fine. I said, 'How you doing?' He said, 'I had too much caffeine.' Next thing you know , three minutes before the horn blows he's taken off, gone, across the street to K-mart" said KYKX radio announcer Danny Tyler.

Witnesses say they saw Vega cross this street, calmly walk over to K-mart and throw a trash can through the front doors. As K-mart employees scrambled to get out, he calmly asked one of them a question.

"He asked where the sporting goods section was at and that's it," said a K-mart employee.

Getting a shot-gun and shells, he tried to make his way out, but he was stopped.

"When officers approached him as he was coming to the front of the store, they actually confronted him told him to drop the weapon and at that point he took a couple of steps back and shot himself," said Sergeant Carlos Samples.

"Never did I have a thought in my mind that anything like this would happen from anybody especially him," said contest watcher Dru Laborde.

Hours before the shooting, witnesses say Vega had become intense about the competition.

"He took it very personally. It struck me, that out of all the people here he needed the truck the most and wanted it the most," said English reporter James Mawre covering the event for BBC.

Some also noticed that Vega had been taking numerous power drinks that were loaded with caffeine.

"He'd had about six, and he said am I all right. My head is buzzing, am I all right? And right up to the last moments, before he ran off, he was asking for help," says Mawre.

"Horrible , horrible, all I can do at this point is pray for the family," says Laborde.

Patterson Nissan has canceled this year's event and sent remaining contestants home.

9. Man dies after choking on ‘onigiri’ during speed-eating contest

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OTSU, SHIGA PREF. – A 28-year-old man taking part in an onigiri (rice ball) eating contest in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, earlier this month choked to death on one of them, according to the event’s organizer.

The man, whose name has not been released, from the town of Kora was rushed to a hospital Nov. 13, the day of the event, but died three days later.

Organizer JA Higashibiwako said Tuesday that 15 contestants were given three minutes to eat five onigiri.

The contest was held as a promotional event highlighting local farm products, including the Oumimai rice brand, a specialty of the prefecture.

“We had prepared tea and had considered safety issues so as not to have any emergencies, but this is a serious blow,” a representative for JA Higashibiwako said.

The man collapsed after stuffing his fifth rice ball into his mouth. He was taken to a hospital by ambulance after a doctor and nurse who happened to be attending the event tried to help him, the organizer said.

Eating contests are popular events at various regional fairs held in Japan to promote local produce and culture, as in other countries, where choking deaths have also been reported.

Japan’s best known competitive eater is Takeru Kobayashi, who won fame as champion of an annual hotdog-eating contest in New York.

After news of the latest death was reported, New York-based Kobayashi tweeted warnings about amateurs trying to eat too much too fast.

10. Sauna contest leaves Russian dead and champion Finn in hospital

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The annual sauna world championship in Finland has been called off after a Russian man died after spending six minutes enduring a temperature of 110C.

Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy was pronounced dead after being dragged from the sauna by judges. Police were investigating the cause of death.

Another competitor, Timo Kaukonen from Finland, was also pulled out and is being treated in hospital for burns. Officials said the competition will not run again.

This was the 12th world sauna championships, where competitors try to outlast others in the heat and steam. The event has been held in Heinola, 86 miles north-east of Helsinki, since 1999.

Ladyzhenskiy and Kaukonen had made it through to the final ahead of more than 130 other participants, but six minutes into the contest, judges noticed something was wrong with the Russian, and dragged both competitors from the sauna.

Both middle-aged men were seen to have severe burns on their bodies and were given first aid after they collapsed.

Ossi Arvela, head of the championships, said the event had been immediately suspended following the incident, and confirmed police were investigating.

"All the rules were followed and enough first aid personnel were in place," Arvela said in a statement, adding that all the competitors had been required to present a doctor's certificate before taking part.

Saija Jäppinen, cultural secretary at Heinola City Council, later announced the end of the event. "After this incident we decided that this game is over and done," she said.

Rules in the competition require the sauna to be heated to 110 C (230 F). Water is added to the stove every 30 seconds and the last person to remain in the sauna wins.

Competitors must verify their condition by giving a thumbs up to judges when asked, and be able to leave the sauna unaided.

Kaukonen is a five-time winner of the event and reigning champion, while Ladyzhenskiy is believed to have come third in last year's contest.

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