Taco-Eating Contest At Fresno Grizzlies Game Goes Horribly Awry, Claims The Life Of A Competitor

Dana Hutchings, 41, reportedly choked to death.

Chukchansi Park, home of the fresno grizzlies
YAHQQLIGAN / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0 Cropped, resized.)

Dana Hutchings, 41, reportedly choked to death.

A 41-year-old man died after apparently choking to death during a taco-eating contest at a Fresno Grizzlies game, Yahoo News reports.

Every year at around this time, the Central California city holds its “Taco Truck Throwdown.” In anticipation of this year’s event, the Grizzlies, a minor-league affiliate of the Washington Nationals, held their own taco-eating contest on Tuesday night.

Grizzlies fan Matthew Boylan watched the contest but didn’t participate. He told The Fresno Bee that he was startled by how quickly one particular fan — later identified as Dana Hutchings — was eating.

“It was like he’d never eaten before. He was just shoving the tacos down his mouth without chewing,” Boylan said.

After a few minutes, Hutchings collapsed, hitting his head on the table as he fell down. EMTs on the scene immediately began attending to the man, attempting to perform the Heimlich maneuver and then, later, CPR. Paramedics then arrived and took him away in an ambulance, to Community Regional Medical Center, where he died on arrival.

No official cause of death was immediately disclosed.

The taco-eating contest at the stadium was immediately stopped and canceled, although there was no delay in the baseball game.

This weekend’s Taco Truck Throwdown event is still scheduled for Fresno, albeit without a planned taco-eating contest. The weekend contest, sanctioned by Major League Eating (MLE), was the World Taco Eating Championship. The taco-eating contest at the ballpark, however, was not sanctioned by MLE and was not a qualifier for the world championship.

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In a statement, the Grizzlies said that the organization is “devastated” over Hutchings’ death.

“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 team said.

This is not the first time that an eating contest has proved fatal. Back in 2018, as The Washington Post reported at the time, Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University held a pancake-eating contest. Twenty-year-old junior Caitlin Nelson decided to give it a go, and within a few moments, she was shaking uncontrollably and then collapsed.

Police later said that her entire mouth was “impacted” with pancakes, blocking her airway. She died nine days later, and her cause of death was officially listed as asphyxia as a result of an obstruction of her airway. Her family later sued the university.