A participant in the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies’ taco-eating contest Tuesday night collapsed during the event and was pronounced dead at a local hospital shortly thereafter. Tuesday’s contest at Chukchansi Park was a prelude to the team’s ninth-annual Taco Truck Throwdown, set for Saturday, but it wound up going very wrong. 41-year-old Fresno man Dana Hutchings collapsed during the contest, received medical attention and was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead there; there’s no official cause of death yet, but coroner’s spokesperson Tony Botti told The Fresno Bee preliminary indications are that he died from choking. And fan Matthew Boylan gave the Bee an account of what he saw during the contest:
Boylan quickly noticed Hutchings because “he was eating so fast compared to the other two (contestants).”
“It was like he’d never eaten before,” Boylan said. “He was just shoving the tacos down his mouth without chewing.”
About seven minutes into the contest, Hutchings abruptly collapsed and hit his face on a table as he went down to the ground, Boylan said. Emergency medical technicians attended to Hutchings and administered the Heimlich maneuver and CPR before paramedics arrived in an ambulance and tried to resuscitate him.
The contest immediately concluded, though there was no stoppage to the baseball game.
It’s awful to hear about this. And it’s led to the cancellation of the Grizzlies’ planned Major League Eating-sanctioned “World Taco Eating Championship” Saturday, although the rest of the Throwdown will still go ahead as planned. But this isn’t the first death that’s happened in an eating contest; Wikipedia lists three from 2012 to 2017, Vice references another one in 2017, and The New York Post has referenced three more.
It’s very unusual to see a death around a contest at a minor-league baseball game, though, and that raises questions about how teams will handle eating contests going forward. It’s certainly not clear that the Grizzlies did anything wrong here, but this still has to make teams leery of these kinds of promotions.