Sacred Heart University student Caitlin Nelson died after a March 2017 pancake eating competition, and her family is suing SHU.
The Fairfield Patch reported that during a Greek Life event, Nelson began to shake and collapsed. Although Nelson was taken to the hospital by emergency responders after CPR was unsuccessful, she died in the days after the competition. The Washington Post reported that her cause of death was asphyxia, and that Nelson experienced brain damage due to lack of oxygen to the brain.
The pancake eating contest was a charity event sponsored by the university; as a member of Kappa Delta sorority, Nelson was a participant.
The lawsuit against Sacred Heart University was filed by the law firm Koskoff, Koskoff, & Bieder, according to The Hartford Courant. The Washington Post quotes the family’s lawyer, Katie Mesner-Hage, as saying, “Caitlin’s family is bringing this case to expose the dangers associated with amateur eating contests and to help prevent other families from having to endure this type of preventable tragedy.”
Nelson is not the only person to have died at an eating contest. Some have called out food eating competitions as dangerous. The same weekend as Nelson, Travis Malouff died in a donut eating contest in Denver, Colo. In Buenos Aires in early Nov. 2018, former boxer Mario Melo died in a croissant eating competition.
Mesner-Hage was also quoted by The Hartford Courant. “These contests are significantly more dangerous than people realize,” she said, “and it’s critically important for the public — especially educational institutions — to understand that certain foods are safer than others and a modicum of forethought can literally save lives.”
Nelson, a Clark N.J. native, was 20 years old when she died. She was studying social work at Sacred Heart and would have graduated in May 2018. She also volunteered at the Resiliency Center in Newtown, Conn. On April 3, 2017, The Mirror posted its condolences regarding Nelson’s death.