Family Sues Bar After Mom Dies In Corn Dog Eating Contest

Foot Long Corn Dogs
Credit: Flickr / m01229 / Creative Commons

Albuquerque, New Mexico — A woman is suing a bar for a corn dog eating contest gone wrong that resulted in the death of her mother. Six months ago, Jessie Harbeck was at the Fire and Ice bar celebrating her 22nd birthday with her parents and grandmother. During the corn-dog eating contest, male contestants were asked to hold the corn dog at groin level while the female contestants knelt in front of them eating as fast as they could.

Photo taken the night of the incident shows (from L – R) Debra Harbeck, Jesse Harbeck and friend Kenny Johnson at the Fire and Ice bar which closed a month after the incident occurred. Credit: The Harbeck Family

Debra Harbeck, 56, won the contest. But moments after the event, she collapsed. Bar owners and patrons frantically tried helping Harbeck by doing the Heimlich maneuver and CPR to no avail. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital where she eventually died a few days later. Doctors say she Harbeck’s brain was:

“so swollen it went down her brain stem and suffocated her to death”

Though Harbeck’s mother was intoxicated when she had arrived at the bar, the daughter said:

“She’s not a big drinker at all. I don’t know what came over her that night, but she had quite a bit of alcohol.”

She added that the mother was served with 12 shots of gin that night, which included four double mixed drinks and three double shots.

The Harbeck family hails from Rio Rancho. Her father Anthony Harbeck is a retired firefighter and her mother was a housewife who also did charity work for the homeless. The couple were married for 27 years. The Harbecks are suing the bar operators, PKG Investments LLC, Anodyne Corp., identified as the owner of a liquor license leased by the bar and building owner, Hinkle Investments.

The lawsuit states,

“While competitive eating contests are fun in nature, inherent dangers such as choking are present. Combined with liquor, a competitive eating contest with inebriated contestants increases the risks of severe harm and/or death. A controlled environment, including medical personnel on site, is necessary for the safety of participants. Witnessing her mother choke to death during a corn-dog eating contest is shocking, brutal and severe and results in emotional impact upon anyone who viewed it, especially plaintiff Jessie Harbeck.”

The suit seeks undisclosed compensatory and punitive damages.

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