Family sues university over student's pancake eating contest death in Connecticut

Tuesday, October 30, 2018
University sued over student's pancake contest eating death
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It happened at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.

BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut -- The family of a Sacred Heart University student, who died last year during a competitive eating contest, is suing the school.

On March 30, 2017, 20-year-old Caitlin Nelson died while taking part in an on-campus, school-sanctioned pancake eating contest for charity.

"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," said Katie Mesner-Hage of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, which 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."

The Sacred Heart University held a candlelight vigil in memory of student Caitlin Nelson who passed away on April 2, 2017.
Photo/Sean Kaschak

Nelson, whose father was a Port Authority police officer killed on 9/11, planned to obtain a master of social work upon graduating from Sacred Heart, said Mesner-Hage. Nelson also devoted her time to the Resiliency Center of Newtown, working with children affected by the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The lawsuit states that Sacred Heart not only approved the contest and the use of pancakes but it also failed to have medical personnel on-site in the event a student started choking. Moments after the contest began, Caitlin began struggling to breathe and police officers were called to provide emergency medical care. Responding officers described finding a mass of pancake paste "like concrete" in Caitlin's airway, which was impossible to dislodge. Caitlin passed away three days later, the lawsuit states.