A beer drinking contest in Spain’s Murcia region ended in tragedy this week when the contest winner, Joaquin Alcaraz Garcia, died of cardiac arrest.
The rules of the contest were simple: Consume as many 1-liter glasses of beer as possible in 20 minutes. Garcia consumed 6 liters (roughly 1.6 gallons or 200 ounces) of beer during that period. He was declared the victor, raised the trophy overhead, and began to vomit.
At first, those present assumed Garcia would be fine. Witness Santiago Garcia was one of the attendees who tried to help the champ. “He started to vomit in his chair. I was one of the people who held him upright,” he said. “He vomited a lot but I sat with him for ten minutes, and he was sleeping and snoring away,” municipality vice president Pedro Rodríguez told a local newspaper.
Emergency officials described the man as obese, which might have encouraged those present to assume Garcia would be able to shake off the binge.
But he wasn’t merely sleeping, as Rodríguez assumed. Emergency medical personnel were called to the scene and took Garcia to the hospital, but he died shortly thereafter.
Despite the tragedy, the town’s mayor, José Manuel Gracia, defended the contest, noting that the official cause of death was not yet identified and that the contest had a “long tradition” in the community. Even so, further festivities have been halted and local authorities have called for a three-day period of mourning in honor of the champ.
While statistics for Spain are hard to come by, stateside, approximately 50,000 Americans suffer alcohol poisoning annually, and alcohol abuse takes the lives of 1.8 million people worldwide each year.