Californian radio station KDND offered a Nintendo Wii games console to the contestant who could drink the most water without a comfort break. Veena Srinivasan shares the appalling consequences.
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: Radio station KDND 107.9 FM
Where: Sacramento, California
When: January 2007
A contestant is a radio water-drinking contest, died of water intoxication a few hours after the contest.
On Friday, January 12 of this year, KDND 107.9 ran a “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest as part of the stations “Morning Rave” show. About 18 contestants participated in the contest to try and win a Nintendo Wii game console. The contestant who could drink the most water without going to bathroom would win the prize.
One of the 18 contestants, Jennifer Strange, participated in the contest in the morning in the studio and was found dead later that afternoon. The county coroner preliminary autopsy findings showed that Ms Strange had died of water intoxication. Water intoxication, also known as hyponatremia, occurs when sodium levels in the blood drop too low. This can lead to brain swelling, seizures, coma and death.
Tapes of the show indicate that a listener, who identified herself as a nurse, called the show to explain that the contest was dangerous. The three disk jockeys did not heed this warning and one of them actually went on to say:
“Yeah, they signed releases, so we’re not responsible. We’re okay”.
At the first stage, the contestants were given half-pint bottles to drink but as more and more of the contestants dropped out the remaining contestants, including Ms Strange, were given larger bottles of water to drink. Statements from the other contestants indicate that Ms Strange drank up to two gallons of water. Reports suggest that when Mr Strange was interviewed at the later stages of the contest, she had complained that her head hurt. Despite the pain, Ms Strange went on to win the second prize, which were tickets to a Justin Timberlake contest.
Ms Strange’s family have filed a wrongful death law suit against KDND’s parent company, Entercom/Sacremento and the employees that were involved in the contest. The lawsuit contains allegations that the radio station’s employees did not a) research the contest, b) warn participants about the risks or c) get medical help even after the contestants complained of pain.
On the following Tuesday, Entercom/Sacremento fired 10 employees connected to the contest, including the three “Morning Rave” disk jockeys.
Why this matters:
This tragic story highlights the dangers encouraging contestants to participate in contests without fully considering the potential health risks involved. It appears that, in an effort to attract more laughs, the three disk jockeys failed to take any action even when the contestants started complaining about pain and discomfort and, instead, continued to demonstrate a reckless attitude towards disaster.
It is also worth remembering that, in the EU, no disclaimer or release form can save a contest organiser in the event of death or personal injury caused by negligence. Our TV listings seem to indicate an increasing demand for “Jackass” style programming, however, when running contests, in order to prevent such a dreadful result, it is best to work on the principle that dangerous stunts be left to Johnny Knoxville and the boys.