Man dies after competing in California taco-eating contest

FRESNO, Calif. (AP/Gray News) — A man died shortly after competing in a taco-eating contest at a minor league baseball game in California, authorities said Wednesday.

Dana Hutchings, 41, of Fresno, died Tuesday night shortly after arriving at a hospital, Fresno Sheriff spokesman Tony Botti said.

An autopsy on Hutchings will be done Thursday to determine a cause of death, Botti said. It was not immediately known how many tacos the man had eaten or whether he had won the contest.

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.

Matthew Boylan, who watched Tuesday's taco eating contest from his seat in Section 105, told the Fresno Bee he quickly noticed Hutchings because "he was eating so fast compared to the other two (contestants)."

"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.

The Fresno County coroner’s office told KSFN he appeared to be choking so Fresno Grizzlies staff rushed over to help. Paramedics tried to clear food out of his airway, but he died less than half an hour later.

A witness mentioned that Hutchings had mentioned he was diabetic and had drank a few beers.

Thursday’s autopsy may determine a cause of death, but toxicology reports may take a month or more.

During the 2018 Taco Eating Championship in Fresno, professional eater Geoffrey Esper downed 73 tacos in eight minutes, KFSN reported.

Competitive-eating contests have become major attractions at festivals and other events. Among the most popular is the annual Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest on New York’s Coney Island, where Joey Chestnut this year’s champion ate 71. Esper finished third.

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