A man collapsed and died shortly after competing in an amateur taco-eating contest during a minor-league baseball team’s Taco Tuesday promotion in Fresno, Calif.
Dana Andrew Hutchings, 41, was part of the competition during a game between the Fresno Grizzlies — the Washington Nationals’ Class AAA affiliate — and Memphis Redbirds at Chukchansi Park. He later died at Fresno’s Community Regional Medical Center. Although the sheriff’s department said in a statement that “we have an idea” about the cause of death, no official cause of death was announced. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday, along with toxicology tests and a review of the man’s medical history. Cause of death may not be determined for up to a month, but coroner’s spokesman Tony Botti told the Fresno Bee that Hutchings appeared to have died of choking.
Hutchings collapsed about seven minutes into the contest. Matthew Boylan, a fan who was attending the game with his wife and four children, said Hutchings was “eating so fast compared to the other two [competitors]. It was like he’d never eaten before,” he told the Bee. “He was just shoving the tacos down his mouth without chewing.”
Emergency personnel performed the Heimlich maneuver and CPR before paramedics arrived. The contest ended immediately, but the baseball game continued.
Fans were watching the contest on the Jumbotron, which quickly cut away when Hutchings collapsed. Another fan told the ABC affiliate that Hutchings had said he had a plan. “He said he was going to enter a taco eating contest and has been not eating all day to make himself a winner,” Eric Schmidt said
Hutchings’s brother described him as a “fun-loving guy” to the ABC affiliate, saying “He had a great sense of humor and liked to make people laugh.”
Hutchings is survived by two teenage children, his brother said.
“We are devastated to learn that the fan that received medical attention following an event at Tuesday evening’s game has passed away,” club president Derek Franks said in a statement. “The Fresno Grizzlies extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the family of Mr. Hutchings. 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.”
The Grizzlies are in their first season as the Class AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
Taco Tuesdays have become a popular promotion for many minor-league teams, with $2 tacos, $2 sodas and $2 churros along with taco-eating contests.
The Grizzlies’ annual Taco Truck Throwdown will go on as scheduled Saturday at Chukchansi Park. However, the World Taco Eating Championship, scheduled for that day at the ballpark, has been canceled. Unlike the Taco Tuesday event, the World Taco Eating Championships are sanctioned by Major League Eating, the governing body for all professional eating contests. According to its website, MLE “helps sponsors to develop, publicize and execute world-class eating events in all varieties of food disciplines.” The Taco Tuesday competition was not a qualifier for the World Championship.
The World Taco Eating Championship has drawn some of the biggest names in competitive eating, such as Joey Chestnut and Matt Stonie, over the past two years. According to the Bee, Chestnut ate 92 carne asada tacos in eight minutes during the 2017 competition. Geoffrey Esper won last year, eating 73 tacos and winning $2,000.
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