A college says that a 20-year-old student who choked during a pancake eating contest died because of her 'own carelessness'

  • Sacred Heart University junior Caitlin Nelson, 20, died after choking during an on-campus pancake eating contest in March 2017.
  • Her mother, Roseanne Nelson, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school last year, claiming it had approved the contest and failed to provide enough medical personnel.
  • The school responded to the lawsuit on Tuesday, saying there were medical personnel on hand, and said Nelson died because of her “own carelessness and negligence.”

A Connecticut college said that a 20-year-old student who died after choking during a pancake eating contest two years ago suffered because of her own “carelessness.”

Sacred Heart University student Caitlin Nelson choked to death during an on-campus, school-approved charity pancake eating contest in March 2017.

In a response to a wrongful death suit filed by Nelson’s mother last year, the university’s lawyer said on Tuesday that Nelson died because of her “own carelessness and negligence,” according to court documents seen by the CT Post.

Nelson’s mother had said the university approved the contest and failed to have medical personnel in the area when it took place.


The university denies not having medical personnel on hand in its response to the wrongful death suit.

The wrongful death suit filed last year said that Nelson started choking shortly after the contest began.

Police who were called to provide medical assistance said they were unable to dislodge a mass of pancake paste with a texture “like concrete” from her airway..

Nelson was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Connecticut, then to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she died days later.

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Doctors determined that Nelson’s brain was “severely damaged from oxygen deprivation,” according to the lawsuit seen by CT Post.

In Sacred Heart’s response to the wrongful death suit, the university said Nelson should have looked into the risks of the contest before participating, and accused her of “failing to maintain proper and appropriate use of her senses” while taking part.

Nelson, a junior at Sacred Heart at the time of her death, planned on going to graduate school and becoming a social worker.

Her mother, who lives in Clark, New Jersey, is seeking an undisclosed amount of damages in the lawsuit, according to NJ.com.

Nelson’s father, James Nelson, died in the September 11 attacks in Manhattan. He was a police officer.

“First and foremost, the entire Sacred Heart community continues to mourn Caitlin’s tragic and untimely death, which weighs heavily on our hearts every day,” Sacred Heart told INSIDER in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Caitlin’s family and friends. With respect to Sacred Heart’s legal response, we are significantly restrained in terms of the facts we can share at this time, and we are unable to comment specifically on ongoing litigation.”

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