What should have been a fun way to kick off the Fourth of July weekend quickly turned tragic for a Custer man who choked to death while trying to speedily eat hot dogs during a competitive eating contest.
The crowd at Way Park in Custer, just across from the county courthouse, was stunned Thursday afternoon when one of six contestants — Walter Eagle Tail, 47 — began to choke while trying to win the contest.
Paramedics who swiftly were called to his side tried in vain to save him. Eagle Tail was transported by ambulance to Custer Regional Hospital, where he died, authorities said.
“There was someone doing CPR when we arrived,” Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler said on Monday. “Basically, he probably just suffocated. It got lodged in his throat and they couldn’t get it out.”
“It all happened within minutes,” he added. “I think everybody was pretty well shocked about it.”
Eagle Tail’s untimely death put a damper on the festivities sponsored by the Custer Chamber of Commerce. Organizers cancelled a planned pie eating contest for the next day.
Wheeler said he was not sure if the death will prompt organizers to make changes to the contest next year.
On Monday, a friend fondly remembered Eagle Tail as a fun-loving, kind and caring man.
“Walter was just being Walter, having fun when he entered this contest,” said Ardis McRae. “He was just having a good time.”