South Dakota town reeling after man dies in hot-dog-eating contest

Last week's Fourth of July festivities in Custer, S.D., turned tragic when one of six people competing in a hot-dog-eating contest choked to death.

By Tuesday, Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler was still trying to answer questions about the death of Walter Eagle Tail, 47, on Thursday.


"This all happened within minutes and they had him in the hospital," Wheeler told the Los Angeles Times. "But they couldn't save him."

Paramedics arrived quickly at the scene but to no avail, authorities said.

The holiday festivities were sponsored by the Custer Chamber of Commerce, and Eagle Tail's death prompted organizers to cancel a pie-eating contest scheduled for the following day.

The Chamber of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment, although Executive Director Dave Ressler told the Rapid City Journal that Eagle Tail's death was unprecedented.

"We are at a loss for words," he told the newspaper. "We are mourning for Walter and his family right now."

Wheeler said he would be surprised if the chamber hosted the event again next year.

"It was a tragedy," Wheeler said. "Everybody was saddened by what happened."

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