Man dies after competing in California taco-eating contest

National News

FRESNO, California (AP) — A Northern California coroner says a man choked to death while participating in a taco-eating contest at a minor league baseball game.

The Fresno County sheriff-coroner’s office released the cause of death for 41-year-old Dana Hutchings after an autopsy Thursday. He died after Tuesday night’s contest at the Fresno Grizzlies game.

Fresno Grizzlies spokesman Paul Braverman said in a statement that the team was “devastated to learn” of the fan’s death and that the team would “work closely with local authorities and provide any helpful information that is requested.”

Tuesday night’s competition came ahead of Saturday’s World Taco Eating Championship to be held at Fresno’s annual Taco Truck Throwdown. The team on Wednesday announced that it was canceling that taco-eating contest, though a “taco truck throwdown” featuring food trucks and musical entertainment would go ahead as planned.

This Sept. 18, 2015 photo shows fans arrive at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, Calif., for a minor-league baseball game between the Fresno Grizzlies and the Round Rock Express. Fresno authorities say a man died shortly after competing in a taco-eating contest at a Grizzlies game. Fresno Sheriff spokesman Tony Botti says 41-year-old Dana Hutchings, of Fresno, died Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 shortly after arriving at a hospital. Botti says an autopsy on Hutchings will be done Thursday to determine a cause of death. (Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee via AP)

Witness Matthew Boylan told the Fresno Bee he noticed Hutchings was eating much more quickly than the two other contestants and did not appear to be chewing his food.

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

He said Hutchings collapsed and hit his face on a table about seven minutes into the contest, then fell to the ground. The eating contest ended immediately.

Fresno sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti says emergency room staff at the hospital tried to clear food from Hutchings’ airway.

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