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Student Dies After Choking on Pancakes During Eating Competition

A college student died after choking on a stack of pancakes during a pancake-eating competition at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, officials said.

Caitlin Nelson, 21, of Clark, New Jersey, took part in the Kappa Delta sorority’s pancake-eating contest “last Thursday when she began choking after eating four or five pancakes,” the New York Post reported.

“She starts to choke on the pancake when someone recognized it — one of the nursing students at the competition — and she caught her and brought her slowly to the ground,” Fairfield police Lt. Robert Kalamaras told The Post. “And then she began CPR, basic life support, until officers showed up less than two minutes after the emergency call was made by one of the nursing students.”

First responders tried to clear the student’s airway but failed, and they rushed her to “St. Vincent’s Medical Center and was later transferred to the Columbia University Medical Center — where she died Sunday, Kalamaras said.”

“Kalamaras said Nelson had several food allergies,” but doctors later said that they did not cause her death. Her friends at the competition were aware of her allergies and had emergency contact information available for emergency responders, “who initially thought she was suffering from anaphylactic shock, Kalamaras said.”

Nelson was a junior studying social work and served on the executive board of the sorority as vice president of community service, according to her LinkedIn page and the organization’s website.

Thousands attended a memorial service in her honor on Sunday, and “flags flew at half-staff on campus,” university officials said.

“Counseling services have already been provided, in particular for Caitlin’s sorority sisters, and will continue to be available for all members of the SHU community who may need them over the next few days,” communications director Deborah Noack told the Fairfield Citizen in a statement.

Nelson’s father had served as a Port Authority police officer and “died during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center when Caitlin was just 5 years old,” the Connecticut Post reports. The officer also “helped evacuate the area after the 1993 bombing.”

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