There are quite a few risky sports out there. Some of which can be potentially life-threatening. There’s base jumping, running of the bulls, motocross, skydiving, and more. Those sports carry a certain amount of danger with them because so many things could go wrong. But another sport that doesn’t appear on lists of the world’s most dangerous sports is competitive eating or speed eating.
Traditionally, eating contests were held at county fairs, and they all required participants to eat pie. Then, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition came around 1979 and it prompted a surge in eating competitions in the U.S. Eating competitions are held in various countries all over the world at varying degrees. Some eating competitions are nationwide, while others are held at a local pub of a small town.
Regardless of how big or how small the eating competition is, there’s a certain health risk that comes with contests in which you have to stuff food inside your mouth as fast as you can. I’m sure we’ve all heard at least one story about someone who died as a result of participating in an eating contest. While deaths at eating contests aren’t exactly a common occurrence, it’s still enough to prompt some concern about the sport.
If you wish to learn more about some tragic accidents that have happened at eating competitions in recent years, then check out this list of 15 tragic cases of people who died during eating competitions.
15. Man Dies After Choking In A Chicken Wing-Eating Contest
KFC Indonesia may have temporarily ended up in hot water over this incident. In May of last year, KFC sponsored a chicken-eating contest held simultaneously at 239 KFC outlets in Java and Bali. The contest was set up in elimination style, with the finals set for May to determine the winner of the Rp 5 billion cash prize, about 384,117 US dollars. Participants at the preliminary rounds had to eat three chicken wings in under five minutes. 54-year-old Fredy Jayadi was one of the contestants in the eating contest held at a KFC in West Jakarta. After he ate the third chicken wing, Jayadi started choking. When a glass of water failed to remove the tidbit, restaurant employees quickly transported him to a hospital. Jayadi was already dead by the time they got there.
14. Man Chokes To Death In Sausage-Eating Contest
Some believe that the festival organizers should have been held responsible for his death. It was October 2013 and the village of Berka, Romania was holding its 6th annual Plescoi Sausage Festival. A sausage-eating contest was held every year in which contestants had to stuff their faces with sausage links, in addition to bread. A 60-year-old man was the winner of the competition, but before he could even walk up to the mic to deliver his acceptance speech, he dropped to the ground. A crowd gathered around him while organizers attempted to give the man first aid. Doctors showed up and attempted to resuscitate the man by clearing out his blocked airways but it was too late. Unlike other eating contests in the U.S., this particular eating contest didn’t have on-site emergency medical staff. It’s believed that if the Heimlich Maneuver was performed on the man by medical staff, he could have lived.
13. Man Dies In Pastry-Eating Competition
It’s not clear if the pastry-eating contest was an informal bet among co-workers or if it was an official contest sponsored by the company. It was November 2008, in Gurgaon, a city southwest of New Delhi in northern India, and employees at a Nokia Siemens Networking office were taking part in a pastry-eating competition in the office cafeteria. One of the contestants, 22-year-old solutions engineer Saurav Sabbarwal, began feeling sick during the competition and left for the bathroom. When he didn’t return, his co-workers went to look for him, finding him unconscious on the bathroom floor. Medical advisor at Max Hospital in Gurgaon, Dr. Sushum Sharma, said that the pastries entered Sabberwal’s windpipe which resulted in his death. Representatives from Nokia Siemens Networking declined to speak on Sabbarwal’s death and the incident in general while police decided to investigate the case.
12. Teen Dies During Hot Dog-Eating Contest
This middle-schooler had his entire life laid out in front of him, and it was all taken away from him in one of the most tragic ways possible. The Boys and Girls Club sponsored a hot dog-eating contest in San Pedro, California to raise money for victims of the Haitian earthquake in 2010. One of the enthusiastic challengers was 13-year-old middle-schooler Noah Akers. The contestants didn’t have to eat multiple hot dogs. They just had to eat a single hot dog, which was covered in whipped cream, to win a candy prize. During the contest, Akers started choking and was rushed to a local hospital where paramedics extracted the hot dog from his throat with elongated forceps. But Akers had been without oxygen for too long and days later, he was taken off life support.
11. Man Chokes To Death In Doughnut-Eating Contest
He was always ready to take on any challenge. Earlier this April, Voodoo Doughnut in Denver, Colorado sponsored a doughnut-eating contest in which participants had to eat a half-pound doughnut in 80 seconds. A half-pound doughnut is about the size of six regular-sized doughnuts put together. 42-year-old Travis Malouff, was one of the contestants in the competition. When he started choking during the event, bystanders tried to help, but no one really knew how to do the Heimlich Maneuver. Paramedics were called to the scene where Malouff was pronounced dead. He died from asphyxia due to blockage of the airway. Since then, Voodoo Doughnut has suspended their eating challenge. Malouff was remembered for his bright smile, his infectious laughter, and his willingness to try anything.
10. Man Dies Of Fatal Heart Attack During Chili Pie-Eating Contest
He was up for anything and liked winning anything. In July 2013, a pub in Townsville, Queensland, Australia held a north Queensland State of Origin pie-eating contest. During halftime, people were asked to volunteer for the contest and 64-year-old Bruce Holland raised his hand. After the competition started, Holland only took a few bites before he began gasping. He reportedly remarked, “Jeez, this chili pie is hot,” before he collapsed to the ground. Two nurses performed CPR on him before paramedics took him to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead later that night. Police Senior Sergeant John Mahoney, revealed that doctors said Holland died as a result of a pre-existing medical condition that incited a heart attack. The official cause of death was heart failure. Holland was well-known to everyone at Bushie Beach.
9. Man Dies After Competing in Onigiri Speed-Eating Contest
To their credit, the event organizers had considered the safety of the participants in the contest. Just last year in November in Hikone City in Shiga Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan, a “Friendship Festival” was held by Higashibiwako’s Japan Agricultural Co-operative (JA) to advocate for local agricultural products. One of the festival’s events was an onigiri speed-eating competition, in which contestants had to eat five rice balls in three minutes. The contest was intended to give attendants the opportunity to taste the local varieties of rice. One of the fifteen contestants, a 28-year-old man, collapsed during the competition after sticking a fifth rice ball into his mouth. On-site doctors and nurses swiftly began administering emergency aid to the young man before he was taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, the man died three days later.
8. Winner Of Pancake-Eating Contest Dies During Victory Ceremony
All of his hard work was about to pay off. During Maslenitsa, an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday, a pancake-eating contest is held in Kaliningrad, the capital of the Russian province of the same name. In 2009, 46-year-old Boris Isaev from the city of Chernyakhovsk, was the winner of the contest. He was the most active player in the game, eating the most pancakes and all of the different types offered to him, winning the contest fair and square. When Isaev walked onstage to accept the prize, he unexpectedly fell to his knees choking. Foam started coming out of his mouth and then he keeled over, breathless. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest massage were attempted but Isaev didn’t respond to either of the procedures done and stopped breathing. Doctors who arrived on the scene had no better luck. They believed Isaev choked on a piece of pancake stuck in his trachea.
7. Woman Chokes To Death In Egg-Eating Contest
Everyone around town loved her, so her sudden and tragic death wasn’t easy to cope with. In April 2013, an egg-eating contest was held at The Wellington Arms pub in Grimbsy, Lincolnshire, England. 54-year-old Sharon Dixon, a landlady for many of the pubs in the area, participated in the contest. But during the contest, she began choking on one of the boiled eggs and her face started turning blue. Friends and bar staff rushed forward and called for emergency services while performing lifesaving measures in the meantime. Dixon was taken to the hospital but she died two days later. She was described as a lovely and friendly person who would do anything for anybody. Everyone knew her and no one had a single bad word to say about her. She was full of life and people naturally gravitated towards her.
6. College Student Dies After Choking In Another Pancake-Eating Contest
What started off as something fun unexpectedly turned into a tragic accident, according to Fairfield, Connecticut police, Lt. Bob Kalamaras. Earlier this month, a pancake-eating contest was held at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. 20-year-old junior social work major Caitlin Nelson was one of the participants in the contest. During the competition, Nelson started choking after eating four or five pancakes, and two nursing students rushed forward to start lifesaving measures. Soon after, they were joined by police officers and paramedics. Nelson was transported to a hospital in critical but stable condition and then transferred to a medical center. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it. Nelson was a member of the Kappa Delta sorority, was authorized in youth mental aid, and volunteered for a non-profit organization that provided counseling services for those affected by the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
5. Man Fatally Chokes During Hotdog-Eating Contest
It was the Fourth of July. It was supposed to be a festive occasion. On the Fourth of July in 2014, a town in western South Dakota near the Wyoming border hosted their annual hot dog-eating contest. That year’s competition featured six contestants. One of those contestants was 47-year-old Walter Eagle Tail. In the middle of the contest, Eagle Tail started choking and eventually collapsed. On-site medics tried performing CPR on him but they couldn’t get him to respond. Paramedics sped off with him to the hospital, where he subsequently died. Town officials canceled the pie-eating contest happening later that week and contemplated canceling the hot dog-eating contest permanently. Townsfolk recounted Eagle Tail as a kind and fun-loving man who sold jewelry and liked joking around with his customers.
4. Woman Dies In Marshmallow-Stuffing Contest
Many would agree that a marshmallow-stuffing contest is one of the most dangerous eating contests out there. Janet Rudd, 32, and her twin sister, Jennifer, were walking around at a fair in Ontario, Canada when a fair organizer approached them, needing two more people for an eating contest. Jennifer declined but Janet decided to help the organizer out and agreed to participate. The contest had participants stuff their faces with marshmallows until they could no longer say the words “chubby bunny.” As more marshmallows are consumed, the words become garbled, which is intended to entertain the audience. After eating four marshmallows, Janet quit the contest, but before she got far from the stage, she collapsed to the ground, unable to breathe. People attempted to do first-aid on her and an ambulance was called, but Janet couldn’t be revived. Janet was described as a kind and gentle woman who liked to play crochet.
3. Graduate Student Dies During Steamed Bun-Eating Competition
Something can always go wrong at annual eating contests, even if they’re held every year without any problems. Dayeh University, located in Changhua County, Taiwan, holds a steamed bun-eating contest every year. For the contest held in 2008, participants had to eat two steamed buns with egg and cheese inside of them as fast as they could. 60 students were split into 30 teams of two, and the winning team would receive NT$2,000, about 65 USD. A 23-year-old graduate student from the Graduate Institute of Bioindustry Technology surnamed Chen was one of the participants in that year’s contest. During the competition, he started vomiting and couldn’t stop, eventually falling unconscious. The university’s medical personnel quickly began performing CPR on Chen and soon after, an ambulance rushed him to the hospital. Chen was pronounced dead after medical staff failed to revive him after 90 minutes of resuscitation.
2. Ex-Royal Marine Chokes To Death In Pickled Egg-Swallowing Competition
It was just supposed to be a fun game. In June 2014, 55-year-old Gary Sims, a former Royal Marine and father of two, was out at Boar’s Head Inn in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England drinking with some friends. As part of a party trick, Sims decided he would try and swallow six pickled eggs. Sims wasn’t even drunk. After he stuffed three of the eggs in his mouth, he began choking and then he collapsed, prompting his friends and staff to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on him while calling for an ambulance. Sims went into cardiac arrest as a result of the choking. Once the paramedics arrived, they proceeded to take Sims away to the hospital, but he died en route. Sims, a regular at the Boar’s Head Inn, was described as a kind and funny man who looked out for everyone.
1. Man Dies After Winning Bug-Eating Contest
Out of all the eating contests out there, this one is probably the strangest and the grossest. In October 2012, the Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach, Florida held a “Midnight Madness” contest in which nearly 30 contestants had to eat as many roaches and worms as they could within four minutes without vomiting. The prize on the line was a female Ivory Ball python. 32-year-old West Palm resident Edward Archbold was going to win the snake for his snake enthusiast friend. Archbold, described by the store owner as a wild and colorful man, would wind up winning the contest, but before he could even claim the snake as his reward, he started throwing up. He was rushed to the hospital where he died. Edwin Lewis, an entomologist at the University of California at Davis, thinks that an allergic reaction may have been the cause of Archbold’s death.