She 'Chipmunked' Pancakes and Died. Now, a Lawsuit

Mom of college student Caitlin Nelson sues Sacred Heart University after eating contest death
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2018 7:18 AM CDT
She 'Chipmunked' Pancakes and Died. Now, a Lawsuit
In this April 2, 2017, photo released by Sacred Heart University, students participate in a candlelight vigil in memory of student Caitlin Nelson on the school's campus in Fairfield, Conn.   (Sean Kaschak/Sacred Heart University via AP)

(Newser) – It was supposed to be a goofy competition, but it ended with the choking death of a college student. Now the mom of 20-year-old Caitlin Nelson, who died in April 2017 after wolfing down a handful of pancakes in an eating contest, is suing Sacred Heart University, claiming the college should never have let the contest take place, the Hartford Courant reports. The complaint alleges that when cops arrived on the scene of the Greek life competition and tried to resuscitate Nelson on March 30, 2017, the pancake mush in her mouth was like "concrete," and that the inside of her mouth was "compacted with pancakes, almost to her teeth." Despite CPR efforts, first responders couldn't get all the pancakes out of her breathing path; Nelson, who the New York Post notes was a member of the Kappa Delta sorority, died of asphyxia a few days later, per an autopsy.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, but Nelson's mom also wants to alert people to the perils of shoving large amounts of food down one's throat for fun. "These contests are significantly more dangerous than people realize," the complaint notes, adding that whipped cream or ice cream would be better items for such amateur contests if they must be held, as they'll melt away before becoming a choking hazard. The suit also alleges that Sacred Heart didn't have staff nearby during the contest to keep participants from "chipmunking" (storing too much food in their cheeks), or medical workers to assist in case of any problems, per the AP and the Wall Street Journal. What brought an extra dose of tragedy to Nelson's death: Her dad, James Nelson, was a Port Authority cop who'd died in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center. (A man died trying to eat a giant doughnut in Denver.)

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