A 28-year-old woman found dead hours after taking part in a radio station's water-drinking contest died of water intoxication, the coroner's office said Saturday.
Assistant Sacramento County Coroner Ed Smith said a preliminary investigation found evidence "consistent with a water intoxication death." Also known as hyponatremia, water intoxication occurs when the body's sodium level falls below normal. Overdrinking dilutes the sodium in the bloodstream, causing the brain to swell and push against the skull. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weakness and, in severe cases, seizures, coma and death.
Jennifer Strange's mother found her daughter's body at her home Friday in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova after Strange called her supervisor at her job to say she was heading home in terrible pain.
"She said to one of our supervisors that she was on her way home and her head was hurting her real bad," said Laura Rios, one of Strange's co-workers at Radiological Associates of Sacramento. "She was crying and that was the last that anyone had heard from her."
Earlier Friday, Strange took part in a contest at radio station KDND-FM (107.9) in which participants competed to see how much water they could drink without going to the bathroom.
Initially, contestants were handed eight-ounce bottles of water to drink every 15 minutes.
"They were small, little half-pint bottles, so we thought it was going to be easy," said fellow contestant James Ybarra of Woodland, west of Sacramento. "They told us if you don't feel like you can do this, don't put your health at risk."
Ybarra said he quit after drinking five bottles. "My bladder couldn't handle it anymore," he added. After he quit, he said, the remaining contestants, including Strange, were given even bigger bottles to drink.
The winner of the "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest was promised a Nintendo Wii video game system. John Geary, vice president and marketing manager for Entercom Sacramento, the station's owner, said station personnel were stunned when they heard of Strange's death.
"We are awaiting information that will help explain how this tragic event occurred," he said.