College Student Dies After Choking During Pancake-Eating Contest

Her death "was a tragic accident," police say.

A Connecticut college student is dead after she choked during a pancake-eating contest.

Caitlin Nelson, a student at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, was participating in the contest Thursday night as part of the school’s Greek Life celebration.

Nelson, a member of Kappa Delta sorority, had eaten around four or five pancakes when she started shaking. She then fell to the floor, spitting out some pancake bits, according to the Fairfield Citizen.

She starts to choke on pancake and 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 New York 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.”

Caitlin Nelson was a student at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.
Caitlin Nelson was a student at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.

Nelson, who hailed from Clark, New Jersey, was taken to St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport and subsequently transferred to Columbia University Medical Center in New York, where she died on Sunday.

Because Nelson had several food allergies, it was initially thought they might have played a factor in her death, but it was ultimately determined that was not the case. “It was a tragic accident,” Kalamaras told

The young woman’s father, James Nelson, was a Port Authority police officer who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. He was 40 years old at the time. She was 5, according to the Connecticut Post.

Sacred Heart University held a candlelight vigil for Nelson on Sunday night.

David Moye covers viral stories. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.