A South Dakota 4th of July hot dog eating contest turned tragic when a contestant choked to death.
Walter Eagle Tail, 47, of Custer, died at a hospital Thursday after attempts to save him at the scene failed, Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler told the Rapid City Journal.
“There was someone doing CPR when we arrived,” Rick Wheeler said.
“He probably just suffocated. It got lodged in his throat and they [paramedics] couldn’t get it out.
A South Dakota 4th of July hot dog eating contest turned tragic when a contestant choked to death
“It all happened within minutes,” the sheriff said.
The Custer Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the contest, canceled a pie-eating contest scheduled for Friday.
“We are at a loss for words,” Chamber Executive Director Dave Ressler said.
“We are mourning for Walter and his family right now.”
Speed-eating competitions are popular over the 4th of July weekend. Eight-time champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut managed to eat 61 hot dogs in 10 minutes at an annual contest in Coney Island, New York, on Friday – eight short of the record 69 he swallowed in the 2013 competition.
George Shea, chairman of Major League Eating, a competitive eating organization based in New York, said organizers do all they can to prevent casualties during contests.
Funeral arrangements were pending for Walter Eagle Tail, whom friends described as a fun-loving, kind and caring man.
The 98th annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest will air live on ESPN on July 4th at 1 PM Eastern.
The Nathan’s Famous qualifying tour is conducted each year in cities across the U.S. and beyond.
“The annual qualifying circuit enables us to bring a genuine taste of Coney Island to cities near and far, and I am especially pleased we’ll be hosting our first qualifying event on the boardwalk at Coney Island,” said Wayne Norbitz, President and COO of Nathan’s Famous, Inc.
“There is no better way to show our commitment to Coney Island and all its businesses, residents and fans than to kick off the summer season with a great event on the boardwalk.”
In recent years, an estimated 40,000 fans have made the pilgrimage to the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island to watch the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog-Eating Contest in person. The ESPN telecast of the event drew an audience of over 1 million viewers in 2012. It is anticipated that Nathan’s Famous will make a donation of 100,000 Nathan’s Famous hot dogs to the Food Bank for New York City, as it does each year.
Joey Chestnut of San Jose, CA, holds the world record for eating 68 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes, and he will seek his seventh straight title this year – a world record. Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, VA, will defend her title as Female Champion. She consumed 45 Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes last year, setting a new women’s world record.
According to archives, the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest has occurred each July 4th in Coney Island, NY since 1916, the year Nathan Handwerker opened the legendary restaurant. Major League Eating, the governing body of all stomach-centric sport, sanctions the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Circuit and ensures the contests are judged professionally and that safety standards are in place at each event.
Those interested in competing in a Nathan’s Famous qualifier should visit www.nathansfamous.com to obtain information and register. All competitors must be over 18 years of age.
In recent years, an estimated 40,000 fans have made the pilgrimage to the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island to watch the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog-Eating Contest in person
About Nathan’s Famous
Nathan’s products are currently distributed in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Cayman Islands and six foreign countries through its restaurant system, foodservice sales programs and product licensing activities. The Nathan’s restaurant system currently consists of 302 units, comprised of 297 franchised units and five company-owned units (including one seasonal unit). Additionally, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs are sold in over 25,000 retail and foodservice locations. Last year, in total, over 430 million Nathan’s hot dogs were sold.