Caitlin Nelson, a student at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, passed away Sunday after choking three days earlier during a pancake-eating contest.
She was 20 years old.
A social work major at the Fairfield, Connecticut-based institution, Nelson went into convulsions Thursday night during the flapjack contest, which was held as part of a Greek Life charity dinner.
Witnesses tell The Associated Press that the junior ate four or five pancakes before she fell on the floor and started shaking uncontrollably.
The Fairfield Police Department said cops rushed to the charity dinner and attempted to clear Nelson’s airway, but their attempts failed.
“There was a lieutenant there in two minutes,” a police source told The New York Daily News on Monday. “He ran across campus to try to help her. They couldn’t get the airway open.
Nelson was later transported to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and and pronounced dead on April 2.
Her vital organs have been harvested and will be used to help other patients.
Lieutenant Robert Kalamaras, who was the first to arrive on the scene, said Nelson suffered from food allergies, but investigators don’t think this condition contributed to her death.
“You have a family that lost their very young and very vibrant daughter, and you have the Sacred Heart University community that lost one of their students. It’s just a tragic accident.” Kalamaras said in a statement, adding:
“Unfortunately, the pancake was impacted in there, in her throat, and the officers were trying to get it out.”
On Sunday night, as you can see above and below, the campus held a candlelight vigil in Nelson’s honor.
This would be a tragic story in almost any circumstance, of course, but Nelson’s father was a Port Authority police officer and died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Nelson worked as a a certified youth mental health counselor and volunteered at the Resiliency Center of Newtown, Connecticut a nonprofit group helping those affected by the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
“It’s about healing and helping,” Nelson told TapIntoClark.net, a local New Jersey news website, at one point. “It’s about paying it forward.”
“Like her father, right up until the end she was giving of herself, and proof of that is her organs are all being donated,” Robert Egbert, a spokesman for the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, told The New York Post of Caitlin.
“She indicated throughout her life that she was an organ donor. Like her father, who gave everything he possibly could so others could live right up until the end, Caitlin just did the same thing.”
Added Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association: “My heart is broken for Caitlin’s family.
“Like her dad, who gave all he possibly could in the final moments of his life so others may live, Caitlin also gave all she could so others live.”
What a horrible tragedy.
May Caitlin Nelson rest in peace.