New Jersey

Sacred Heart Junior Dies After Choking During Pancake-Eating Contest

Students remembered Caitlin Nelson during a candlelight vigil on campus Sunday

A 20-year-old Connecticut college student whose father was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks has died after choking during a pancake-eating contest.

Police said Caitlin Nelson, a Sacred Heart University junior, died at a New York City hospital on Sunday, three days after participating in the contest at the university commons. She was from Clark, New Jersey, and was majoring in social work at the Catholic school in Fairfield.

Officials said the contest was part of a fraternities and sororities event.

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Nursing students and first responders administered medical treatment and Nelson was taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to Fairfield police. She was moved to a New York hospital on Friday.

"When officers responded, they did the best to establish an airway. Unfortunately the pancake impacted in there, in her throat, and the officers were trying to get (it) out, but were unable to at the time,"  Lt. Robert Kalamaras, of Fairfield Police, said

According to Fairfield police, Nelson had known food allergies, but medical staff at the hospital said that an allergic reaction did not contribute to her death.

"You have a family that lost their very young and vibrant daughter and you have the (Sacred Heart University) community that lost one of their students," Kalamaras said. "It's just a tragic accident."

Students remembered Nelson during a candlelight vigil on campus Sunday and the university is making counselors available for Nelson's sorority sisters and members of the Sacred Heart community.

Her father, James, was a Port Authority police officer who died on 9/11.

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