A man participating in an eating contest has died after he choked on a hot dog. A Fourth of July competition in South Dakota turned tragic after the hot dog speed-eating contestant choked on a section of un-chewed frank, keeled over and died.
Reports TMZ: “A 47-year-old competitive eater died during a hot dog eating competition in South Dakota on July 3rdafter choking on one of the hot dogs. Walter Eagle Tail was participating in a 4th of July weekend contest at Way Park in Custer, South Dakota when witnesses say he began to choke. Paramedics were called to the scene and tried to help, but they were too late.”
Eagle Tail, who is of Native American heritage, was one of six contestants that had gathered on Thursday for the competition. Paramedics standing by rushed in, and the man was taken to Custer Regional Hospital, but he could not be revived.
“There was someone doing CPR when we arrived,” Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler said. “Basically, he probably just suffocated. It got lodged in his throat and they couldn't get it out. It all happened within minutes. I think everybody was pretty well shocked about it.”
The Custer Chamber of Commerce organized the event; officials said additional eating contests, including a pie-eating race, were called off.
“Walter was just being Walter, having fun when he entered this contest,” said friend Ardis McRae, adding that Eagle Tail was a good-natured man who worked for the Native Sun News weekly paper. “He was just having a good time.”
“You could just see him smile and laugh. He was just an outgoing person,” McRae said. “People, they would just smile at the things he was up to. He was just a character.”
Custer Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Ressler said that Eagle Tail's death marked the first food eating injury that he was aware of.
“We are at a loss for words,” Ressler said. “We are mourning for Walter and his family right now.”
The death marked the rare time someone has died in competitive eating, which has grown in popularity in recent years. Competitive eater Joey Chestnut has garnered national attention for his ability to eat hot dogs quickly, including when he knocked back 61 dogs in 10 minutes over the holiday. A similar style contest was held in Rapid City last week. Competitors often dip the hot dogs in water before eating to make the buns easier to eat.
Deaths during competitive eating contests have happened in the past. According to various web sites, a Romanian man choked to death during a sausage-eating contest in 2013 in that country, and in 2012, a Florida man choked to death after eating dozens of live cockroaches during a contest.
In 2008, a Taiwanese student died after hurriedly eating at least two rice and cheese buns during a competition. And a 2007 case led to radio station employees in California being fired after a water-drinking competition for a Nintendo Wii ended in the winner's death.