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Sacred Heart Student Dies After Choking In Pancake-Eating Contest

Students at Sacred Heart University hold a candlelight vigil Sunday night after the death of a classmate.
Students at Sacred Heart University hold a candlelight vigil Sunday night after the death of a classmate. Photo Credit: Sacred Heart University via Facebook
Caitlin Nelson of Sacred Heart University.
Caitlin Nelson of Sacred Heart University. Photo Credit: Facebook

click here for an updated story: Sacred Heart University is mourning the death of 20-year-old Caitlin Nelson, whose father died in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Click here for an update on the ruling on the cause of death.

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — A student at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield has died after she choked during a pancake-eating contest Thursday night at the college.

Students at SHU gathered for a candlelight vigil Sunday night on the campus in memory of Caitlin Nelson, a 20-year-old woman from New Jersey.

Related story: Family of stricken SHU student donating organs

The SHU Facebook page — which posted a photo and a "We.Are.SHU" message — was filled with words of love and support for the student and her family.

"Love and prayers go out to the SHU family but most especially to the family and close friends. Heaven has another angel," said one post.

"So heartbreaking. Sending much love and peace to [her] family and all of the SHU community," another post said.

"So terribly sad. Heaven has gained another angel too soon. My prayers go out to [her] family. May she rest in the sweetest peace," said another post.

She had eaten four or five pancakes in the contest, held at a Greek Life dinner on the college’s University Commons, when she began to shake and fell to the floor, according to Fairfield police.

She spit out pancake but was still choking, police said. A nursing student began CPR, while others attempted to use the Heimlich maneuver and began pulling food from her throat, police said.

She was hospitalized in critical condition at St. Vincent's Medical Center and moved to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York to undergo further testing as her medical condition was declining, police said.

She was pronounced dead by Columbia Presbyterian medical staff on Sunday afternoon.

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