Childrearing

College Student Dies During Campus Pancake-Eating Contest

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(Facebook/Caitlin Nelson)

Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, was struck by a terrible and sudden tragedy over the weekend when 20-year-old Caitlin Nelson died during a charity pancake-eating competition on campus.

According to the New York Daily News, Nelson was participating in the pancake-eating contest at the Greek Life charity dinner at her school on Thursday night, when witnesses say she suddenly collapsed and started convulsing after eating about four or five pancakes.

There were nursing students in the room who rushed to provide immediate assistance while other students called 911, and a police officer on campus was reportedly on site within two minutes. They tried the Heimlich maneuver but were unable to clear her airway. She was rushed to the hospital, and died on Sunday. Nelson reportedly had some food allergies, but investigators say they don’t think that contributed to her death.

Caitlin’s father died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, when Caitlin was just five years old. Her father was a Port Authority officer who was helping to evacuate people from one of the towers and was killed when it collapsed. Nelson was a social work major and a mental health counselor who was also an active volunteer who was especially active in a nonprofit dedicated to people impacted by the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newton, Connecticut. She was also a fencer and vice president of community service at Kappa Delta sorority.

Caitlin Nelson is survived by her mother and her older sister, who are going through an unspeakable tragedy right now. They’ve arranged for the donation of Caitlin’s organs, because that was something she’d said she intended to do for her whole life.

Competitive eating is an increasingly popular sport with a lot of very dedicated participants who train religiously and develop complicated techniques to eat as much food as quickly as possible for prize money and bragging rights, but it can be dangerous, especially for someone who’s never done it before. Everyone eats, so it doesn’t seem like it should be dangerous, but amateur eaters are more likely to injure themselves than people who spend their whole lives “training” and practicing taking small bites and swallowing without chewing as quickly as possible. This was a senseless tragedy for a family that’s already been through too much, and the whole community is reeling from it.

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