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Sacred Heart Denies Wrongdoing In Student's Choking Death During Pancake Eating Contest

Caitlin Nelson
Caitlin Nelson Photo Credit: File photo

Sacred Heart University is denying any wrongdoing in a student's choking death during a pancake eating contest in 2017.

In court documents filed Tuesday in Superior Court in Bridgeport, the college's attorney's blamed Caitlin Nelson’s own actions in her death in response to a lawsuit brought by Nelson’s mother.

Nelson, 20, who was studying social work and was a member of Kappa Delta sorority, was rushed to St. Vincent's Medical Center in March 2017 after choking on the pancakes during a charity fundraiser.

Her mother, Rosanne Nelson, of Clark, New Jersey, who is seeking damages, accuses the school of approving the contest, according to the lawsuit.

She had eaten four or five pancakes in the contest, held at a Greek Life dinner on the University Commons, when she began to shake and collapsed, according to Fairfield police.

She spit out pancake but was 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 also had food allergies, police said at the time.

She taken to St. Vincent's Medical Center and later transferred to Columbia University Medical Center, where she died three days later, police said.

She was 5 when her father, James Nelson, 40, died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack on the World Trade Center. A Port Authority police officer, he was evacuating people from the 27th-floor of the Twin Towers when it collapsed.

He had also rescued people after 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center bombing, braving the black smoke despite his asthma.

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