The Death of Eagle Tail: South Dakota Man Dies During Hot Dog Eating Competition

man-dies-in-eating-contest-walter-eagle-tail.jpg-665x385Hot Dog with MustardWe have previously discussed the liability issues surrounding eating and drinking contests. Those concerns were raised again with the death of Walter Eagle Tail, 47, who choked to death during a Fourth of July hot dog eating contest in Custer, South Dakota.

Paramedics were called to assist Eagle Tail and he was transported to Custer Regional Hospital where he was declared dead. A bystander was doing CPR on him before the paramedics arrived. It is believed that he suffocated from a lodged hot dog. He was one of six contestants.

The event organizers cancelled a pie eating contest after the incident.

Eagle Tail sold jewelry at the Crazy Horse Memorial, particularly bear claw necklaces.
Surprisingly, despite their popularity, deaths remain relatively rare at these contests. We previously discussed the death of a man at a cockroach eating contest in Florida in 2012.

These contests raise obvious defenses of assumption of the risk for participants, who clearly understand the danger of choking and the health implications of eating dozens of hot dogs. Even in states that have curtailed implied assumption of the risk, there is likely waivers signed before most large competitions and sponsors are protected under comparative negligence principles. Hot dog competitions always struck me as particularly risky. Pie eating contests involve a food that is less likely to cause choking. Indeed, some of the less common eating contests would seem ideal for minimizing choking hazards from the grits eating contest in South Carolina to the Gyoza (Dumpling) Eating Championship in California to the Cheese Curd Festival in Wisconsin to the Annual Testicle Festival in Montana. Wolfing down deep fried bull testicles may be more of a social than a medical hazard.

In the end, it is the decision of the participants in assuming such risks. Eagle Tail made that choice but it will not make the loss any easier for his family or friends. There is a memorial site dedicated to him that was set up by a friend who sold jewelry with him in South Dakota at this site.

Source: RapidCityJournal

36 thoughts on “The Death of Eagle Tail: South Dakota Man Dies During Hot Dog Eating Competition”

  1. @NickS

    I feel like Mary Tyler Moore (?) at Chuckles the Clown ‘s funeral. Anyway:


    By the shores of Gitcheegoomee
    By the shining Big Sea Water
    Eagle Tail met the Great Spirit
    Doing what he shouldn ‘t have oughta.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  2. At least he will no longer have to worry about whether or not the Redskins change their name.

  3. Laser, There’s a pizza joint named Luigi’s 2 blocks from our winter abode in San Diego. It’s a 2 person challenge and pizza is as big as a 4 person table. I’ve probably seen 4 or 5 tandems of men[women are smarter] attempting and failing. They always look pail toward the end. A couple ran to the bathroom to spew[disqualification]. The demographic is always w/m’s 18-26. That’s the same demographic for victims diving into the shallow end of the pool and becoming quads. They were also always drunk and usually @ night. I did work for a pool manufacturer who got sued a lot.

    In order to get some women involved in these challenges, maybe they should allow 3 hurls. That will get you some bulimic females competing. Was that insensitive??? Definitely not PC.

  4. I was in the Black hills a year ago. Mount Rushmore struck me as overly militaristic. I will not return. The Crazy Horse monument and museum were excellent. I was there 20 years ago. the change was amazing, If I return I will visit the Crazy Horse museum, I will not visit Mount Rushmore.

    1. I grew up visiting the area every couple of years, since it was so close. My wife has never been so we are going to expand her horizons. 🙂 I am hoping that Deadwood is still hanging the dastardly coward Jack McCall so I can see him hung again. That will be the highlight of my trip. 🙂

  5. Very sad indeed.
    The Crazy Horse memorial is my favorite to visit in South Dakota– it has been completely privately funded & maintains a very thoughtful, touching and dignified atmosphere.

  6. That’s so sad. How tragic that he couldn’t be saved.

    I’m surprised there aren’t more hospitalizations. Even water can poison you if you drink so much of it so fast that it dilutes your electrolytes.

  7. I, for one, have considered it discrimination, to have contests of who can eat the most – in a particular time schedule. It doesn’t take size, weight, regular eating habits and so much other such (sensible criteria) – into consideration.

    There’s a pizza place in Pomona, CA – that actually has a contest for an 11 pound pizza. (If you haven’t noticed, most “Man v Food” average 4 to 6 pounds). Valentino’s Pizza on Towne & Arrow has only found 1 successful pizza mega muncher.

    Wonder if anyone has ever considered a class action suit on eating contests.
    (Even if you were skinny before you started; does it create a monster)!

    1. Laser – there used to be a sandwich shop on the edge of the ASU campus that catered to students and had some type of ‘eating competition.’ If you could eat x amount of their sandwiches in x time you got them free. If not, you paid for what you ate. They winners pictures were on the wall. Most of them were girls under 100 pounds with high metabolism.

  8. [music]
    Hot Dogs! Armour Hotdogs!
    What kind of kids like Armour Hotdogs?
    Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks.
    Rat skids, many wids, even kids with chicken pox–
    Like hotdogs.
    The Dogs, Kids, Like, to Bite!

    1. Gary and slohrss99 – it is competitive and there is evidently money in it, but I have trouble seeing it as a sport. However, I have trouble with cricket as a sport. 😉

  9. Competitive eating, like many sports, has a risk of physical danger to it, even lethality.
    Of course waivers need to be signed, just like any other participative sporting event.

  10. Considering the number of these contests, I, too, am surprised there are not more incidents of choking. I am also surprised they did not get to him fast enough. BTW, I am going to Custer, SD next week. I will look for the memorial.

  11. Sheboygan, Wi. has a bratwurst eating contest which would pose even a bigger choking hazard.

  12. Man, do these people have to sign waivers like you have to for a running or bike race? I’ve always wondered why more people haven’t died during these things. Side note: I have read where Olivia Wilde is a bad *** at these kind of things. Who would’a thought???

  13. Hmmm. I think this needs an Irish Poem.

    Any Weenie Mighty Mow???
    By Squeeky Fromm Girl Reporter

    There once was an Injun from Custer.
    Who scarfed down some hot dogs with bluster!
    But, he choked in the clutch
    And one wonders if such. . .
    His assumption of risk passes muster???

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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