Ten Fired After Radio Contest Tragedy

By | January 19, 2007 at 9:03 AM

A Sacramento area radio station fired 10 employees Tuesday,
including three morning disc jockeys, in reaction to a tragedy in which
a woman died Friday after an on-air water-drinking contest at the
station’s studios.

The hosts of the KDND-FM “Morning Rave” show – who go by the on-air
names Trish, Maney and Lukas – were fired a day after the station
suspended the show and said it is investigating the circumstances
surrounding the death.

Jennifer Lea Strange, 28, died after participating in a water-drinking
contest on the hit music radio station, which calls itself — playing on
the sound of its call letters — The End.

CBS News station KOVR-TV reports that during the contest, a listener –
self-identified as a nurse – called the live radio broadcast and warned
that the game was dangerous.

“I want to say that those people drinking all that water can get sick and die from water intoxication,” said the caller.

“Yeah, we’re aware of that,” replied a DJ, according to the broadcast
news report. “They signed releases so we’re not responsible, okay?”

Donnie Logsdon — one of the 18 contestants trying to win a Nintendo Wii
gaming console by drinking the most water without going to the bathroom
— tells KOVR-TV news that they didn’t hear that on-air warning in the
room where he and the others were filling up way beyond comfort.

“Maybe she would have walked away,” says Logsdon. “But we didn’t hear that inside there.”

Strange was second to last to stop drinking, and when she bowed out, she did say on the air that she was not feeling well.

“My head hurts. They keep telling me that it’s the water…that it will

tell my head to hurt and it’ll make me puke.” Strange told the DJ, live
on the air, before leaving the station. “Who told you that, the
intern?” was the DJ’s response, according to the KOVR-TV news report on
the radio show.

John Geary, vice president and general manager of KDND parent company,
Entercom/Sacramento, announced the firings Tuesday in an e-mail to
reporters: “Effective immediately, the ‘Morning Rave’ program is
canceled and ten employees are no longer with the station.”

A company spokesman, Charles Sipkins, confirmed that the three DJs, as
well as two other on-air personalities, “Carter” and “Fester,” are
among those fired. Five other employees who worked on the “Morning
Rave” also were let go. All 10 were fired, the spokesman said, for
violating terms of their employee agreements.

The “Morning Rave” had been on the air for about five years and was one of Sacramento’s top-rated morning radio shows.

During the contest, participants were given two minutes to drink an
8-ounce bottle of water and then given another bottle to drink after a
10-minute break.

The contest was called “Hold your Wee for a Wii.”

Contestant James Ybarra said he quit drinking after imbibing eight
bottles, but Strange, who placed second, and other would-be winners
kept going even after they were handed even larger containers.

In all, according to witness reports, Strange may have drunk nearly two
gallons. Afterward, she appeared ill when she went on the air, one
contestant said.

After the contest, Strange called in sick to work, crying and saying
she was heading home in terrible pain. About five hours later, Strange
— who had three children – was found dead by her mother at her home in
the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova.

According to the Sacramento County coroner, preliminary autopsy findings indicate she died of water intoxication.

Drinking large quantities of water rapidly can throw off the body’s
balance of electrolytes, causing brain swelling and leading to
seizures, coma, or even death.

In February 2005, a Chico State University student died after drinking
too much water in a hazing incident at a fraternity. Matthew Carrington
was forced to repeatedly drink from a 5-gallon jug and then do

In that case, one fraternity member pleaded guilty to felony
involuntary manslaughter and two others pleaded guilty to being
accessories to manslaughter, among other charges.

Sgt. Tim Curran, spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s
Department, which would have jurisdiction over the KDND incident, said
officers are not investigating Strange’s death.

“It was a contest and people are saying there was no coercion. On its
face, it appears it was all done voluntarily, and no criminal activity
was involved,” Curran said.

In the studio, Ybarra said Strange showed fellow contestants
photographs of her two sons and daughter, for whom she was hoping to
win the Nintendo Wii. The game console retails for about $250.

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