Fresno man dies after competing in taco eating contest at Grizzlies baseball game

A man participating in a taco eating contest at a Fresno Grizzlies baseball game died, according to the Fresno County Coroner’s Office.

Dana Hutchings, 41, was pronounced dead at Community Regional Medical Center after being rushed there from Chukchansi Park on Tuesday night, the coroner’s office said Wednesday.

There is no official cause of death pending toxicology reports and a review of the man’s medical records. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday, though it could take up to a month for a final determination to be made, coroner’s spokesman Tony Botti said.

Emergency staff at the hospital did clear food from Hutchings’ throat, Botti said, and preliminary indications are that he died of choking.

In a news release, Grizzlies team president Derek Franks said, “We are devastated to learn that the fan that received medical attention following an event at Tuesday evening’s game has passed away.

“The Fresno Grizzlies extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the family of Mr. Hutchings. The safety and security of our fans is our highest priority. We will work closely with local authorities and provide any helpful information that is requested.”

Grizzlies fan Matthew Boylan, who attended Tuesday night’s game with his wife and four children, said he was also able to watch the taco eating contest from his seat in Section 105 just by turning around. Another 30 to 40 fans stood nearby to watch the contest up close.

Boylan 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.”

About seven minutes into the contest, Hutchings abruptly collapsed and hit his face on a table as he went down to the ground, Boylan said. Emergency medical technicians attended to Hutchings and administered the Heimlich maneuver and CPR before paramedics arrived in an ambulance and tried to resuscitate him.

The contest immediately concluded, though there no was no stoppage to the baseball game.

Tuesday’s contest was being held on “Taco Tuesday” as a prelude to the ninth annual Taco Truck Throwdown, scheduled for Saturday. It was was not sanctioned by Major League Eating, according to the Grizzlies. Nor did it serve as a qualifier for the World Taco Eating Championship, an MLE event set to happen Saturday during the Throwdown.

In the past, the Grizzlies have hosted a local qualifying contest with the winner earning a spot to compete against the professionals like Joey Chestnut and Matt Stonie.

The Taco Truck Throwdown will continue as scheduled, though the World Taco Eating Championship has been canceled, according to Grizzlies spokesman Paul Braverman.

This isn’t the first time a death has occurred during an eating competition. In 2017, a 20-year old college student died during a pancake eating contest at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. In 2018, A retired boxed died during a croissant eating contest in Argentina.

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