A man died on Tuesday after suddenly choking during a taco-eating contest in Fresno, Calif.
Hungry after fasting all day in hopes of winning, Dana Andrew Hutchings enrolled in the contest, which took place at the Fresno Grizzlies minor league game.
“He apparently began to choke, so Fresno Grizzlies medical staff rushed over, started to give him first aid and then turned him over to American Ambulance,” Tony Botti, an official with the Fresno County Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Office, told ABC 30.
The 41-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital later that night.
His sister, Mecca Hutchings, told the broadcast station that it doesn’t seem real. Dana Hutchings had spoken about the contest with his family just a few hours before he died.
“Who would think something like this would happen?” Mecca Hutchings told the station. “He told us he was going to a taco-eating contest, but we didn’t think something like this would happen.”
Hutchings’ mother, Dora, remembers trying to contact her son before receiving the devastating call from the hospital.
“ said my son wasn’t responding to anything,” she said. “How they identified him was that he has a tattoo on his hand that says Dora.”
Dana Hutchings left a strong impression with others at the baseball game, who remembered him for his enthusiasm.
“He said he was going to enter a taco eating contest and has been not eating all day to make himself a winner ,” witness Eric Schmidt said.
Schmidt told ABC 30 that Hutchings mentioned he was diabetic and that he’d drank a few beers earlier in the day. Schmidt offered him food, but Hutchings declined to save room in his stomach for the competition.
“He was winning. I mean, he was hungry, you could tell,” Schmidt shared. “My son and I were standing there like, ‘Oh, there’s the guy.’ And he was winning because he was starving.”
Fan Matthew Boylan says Hutchings was eating extremely fast during the contest.
“It was like he’d never eaten before,” Boylan told the Fresno Bee. “He was just shoving the tacos down his mouth without chewing.”
Schmidt says he saw Hutchings stop eating and take a final chew before the stadium video screens went dark and paramedics went running over.
Paramedic tried in vain to remove the food lodged in Hutchings’ throat. He died a short time later.
Hutchings was a dad to two teenage children. His sister, Mecca, remembers him as a “fun-loving guy,” she told ABC 30.
“He had a great sense of humour and liked to make people laugh,” she recalled. “He was an avid supporter of Fresno State.”
Derek Franks, the Fresno Grizzlies’ team president, says the World Taco Eating Championship has been cancelled indefinitely due to the tragedy.
“We are devastated to learn that the fan that received medical attention following an event at Tuesday evening’s game has passed away. The Fresno Grizzlies extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the family of Mr. Hutchings,” Franks wrote in a statement.
“The safety and security of our fans is our highest priority. We will work closely with local authorities and provide any helpful information that is requested.”
Hutchings’ sister launched a Facebook fundraiser to pay for her brother’s funeral costs.
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