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Family Of 20-Year-Old Who Died During Pancake Eating Contest Sues Sacred Heart University

Caitlin Nelson
Caitlin Nelson Photo Credit: Facebook

The family of a 20-year-old college student who choked to death during a pancake-eating contest at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield is filing a lawsuit against the school.

Caitlin Nelson, a junior at the Fairfield County university, died last year on March 30 during the contest, which was a school-sanctioned event to raise money for charity. Her death was ultimately ruled an accident.

The Clark, New Jersey, resident had eaten several pancakes before she collapsed, spitting out some food, but still choking, witnesses told police. 

A nursing student began CPR, while others attempted to use the Heimlich maneuver and began pulling food from her throat, police said. Nelson was transported to Columbia University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

The new lawsuit alleges that Sacred Heart approved the contest and the use of pancakes at the Greek life event. It further states that pancakes are a dangerous food to eat quickly and that the university failed to have any medical personnel on site in case of such an event.

“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,” Katie Mesner-Hage of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, the law firm representing the family, stated. “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.”

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