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Sacred Heart University Sued Over Student’s Death From Pancake Eating Contest

Caitlin Nelson Facebook selfie photo


The mother of a Sacred Heart University junior who choked to death after participating in a 2017 charity pancake-eating contest on campus is suing the university, saying that it was at fault for sanctioning the event and not having medical staff on hand, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Caitlin Nelson, 20, started to choke minutes after the contest began on March 30, 2017, and died days later at a New York hospital.

What Happened?

Rosanne Nelson has sued Sacred Heart University on October 29, 2018, in Bridgeport state court over the death of her 20-year-old daughter Caitlin Nelson. The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed amount of money and accuses the school of approving the contest despite the dangers and failing to provide adequate medical personnel.

If officially feels like autumn on campus and the semester is in full swing! Want to know what you missed this week at #SHU? Read Dr. Petillo's blog here: https://t.co/mVDXSyuoEH#WeAreSHU pic.twitter.com/FHdDejX7Gw

— sacredheartuniv (@sacredheartuniv) October 20, 2018

According to Hartford Courant, Nelson started to choke minutes after the contest began in March 2017, and died days later at a New York hospital. Fairfield police and medics who responded within minutes were not able to clear her mouth and throat of pancakes. The blockage deprived Nelson of oxygen for an extended period and caused serious brain damage.

“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,” Kati Mesner-Hage from Bridgeport law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder said, who represents the family in the lawsuit filed in Superior Court. “These contests are significantly more dangerous than people realize 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.”

An autopsy determined Nelson died of asphyxia due to obstruction of her airway by a lump of food.

According to the lawsuit, Fairfield police officers who tried to save Nelson found her mouth “was compacted with pancakes, almost to her teeth” and that pancake paste in her mouth was “like concrete.” They were not able to clear away the pancakes to restore Nelson’s ability to breathe.

A spokesperson for Sacred Heart declined to comment because of the litigation, ABC 7 reports.

The lawsuit suggests ice cream and whipped cream are safer for amateur competitive eating contests because they melt before they can block a person’s airway.

Who Is Caitlin Nelson?

Caitlin Nelson, 20, was a junior student of Sacred Heart University, a private Roman Catholic university located in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Nelson was originally from Clark, New Jersey. According to social media, Nelson was studying Social Work while attending Sacred Heart.

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