Tragedy mars eating contest
Published: Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Tragedy struck the City of Custer’s Independence Day activities when a local man choked to death during the hot dog eating contest July 3 at Way Park.
Walter Eagle Tail, 47, a contestant in the contest, began choking a couple of minutes into the competition that saw each contestant tasked with eating as many hot dogs—with buns—as they could within five minutes.
A witness to the competition said Eagle Tail appeared to be putting the whole hot dogs into his mouth to eat them and began to choke on the second one he tried to eat.
“He was looking really bad. It was really awful to watch,” the man said.
Custer County Chronicle reporter Kate Najacht, who was taking photos of the event for the newspaper, said Eagle Tail collapsed and fell forward through the tables on the stage.
“I’ve never seen someone turn that color,” she said.
First responders from Argyle who were at the contest immediately rolled Eagle Tail to his side and worked to dislodge the hot dog, as did Forest Service personnel on the scene. Before long other EMTs were also on the scene and worked on Eagle Tail for several minutes before loading him into an ambulance to transport him to Custer Regional Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler, who arrived on scene, said first responders worked to get out the hot dog and bun, which he said was “deeply lodged.” A sheriff’s deputy administered CPR to Eagle Tail as he was transported, Wheeler said.
The Custer Area Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors most of the Independence Day activities, including the eating contests, immediately cancelled the pie-eating contest scheduled for the next day. The rest of the events went on as planned.
“The Custer Area Chamber is deeply saddened by this accident,” said chamber director Dave Ressler in a released statement. “We are at a loss for words and we pray for his family. Nothing like this can ever be expected at events that take place with months of planning. Custer County EMTs were present on the site of the event and responded within seconds. We encourage the Custer area to join us in prayer for him and his family.”
The man who witnessed the choking said he felt terrible Eagle Tail died while simply trying to have some fun over the weekend.
“I would like to see the eating contests continue, but I understand if they don’t,” he said. “They’re fun to watch, but I never expected something like this to happen.”
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