The family of an Australian father of three who died in December says he "basically rotted from the inside out" after reportedly eating a gecko on a dare. David Dowell of Brisbane at first thought he was hungover when he didn't feel well a day after a Dec. 1 Christmas party. But the next day, "he started throwing up and it was green," his sister, Hannah, tells the Sydney Morning Herald. "That's when they rang the ambulance." The 34-year-old Dowell—with a swollen body, black urine, and fluid in his lungs—was found to have salmonella, with a doctor confirming to the family that a swallowed gecko "could have been" the cause.
A friend claimed Dowell had eaten a gecko at the party on a dare, but his family members can't be sure. "David never mentioned it" and "there has been no evidence that he actually ate it … so he might have intended to eat it and then thrown it away," says Hannah. Either way, "he was just in absolute agony." Dowell eventually suffered mass organ failure before dying during surgery just a week after his diagnosis, on Dec. 11. His partner of 15 years, Allira Bricknell, tells 7News.com.au that the death certificate mentions "ingestion of a gecko"—one of several animals that have salmonella bacteria in their gut. She remembers Dowell as "the best person I have ever met" as well as "the life of the party." (Another Australian died after eating a slug on a dare.)