Michelle Buckley

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Eyes Wide Shut

Here is a classic case of ignoring the fact that you're getting into something with your eyes shut. A classic case of everyone involved should have known better...


As you've probably heard by now, on January 12th, a Sacramento radio station (KDND), held a contest for listeners -- HOLD YOUR WEE FOR A Wii. The object of the contest was for participants to drink as much water as they could without going to the bathroom. The winner was to receive a Nintendo Wii video game system.

Let's just say this contest went horribly, horribly wrong.

The second place contestant, Jennifer Strange, died 5 hours after the competition ended from water intoxication. Click to hear Jennifer's radio interview. She drank 2 gallons of water without making a pit stop. She was trying to win the Nintendo game system for her 3 children.

Twenty contestants took part in the competition, including Strange, who was the 2nd runner-up. Other participants said they became concerned when one woman lay on the ground, with her teeth chattering, and looking pale. At one point Strange reportedly was lying on the ground but told staff that she "could probably drink more" if someone could pick her up. When she left the competition site, she was complaining of a headache.

Since Strange's death, 10 staffers, including 5 on-air djs have been fired. The Strange family is suing and the FCC is investigating the matter, considering termination of the station's license.

No one is denying that this was a stupid thing to do for everyone involved. And it's terrible that the djs made jokes about Strange's distended stomach and cases of death caused by water intoxication. They blew off their responsibility by saying "the contestants signed waivers, so we're not responsible." They even ignored and made fun of an explicit warning made by a caller that observed someone could get terribly sick.

Revealingly, one dj commented "maybe we should have researched this," which calls into question how specific the waivers were and suggests the contest did not get any specific legal or managerial oversight, which therefore could mean the radio station and the DJs are responsible for Strange's death. My understanding of waivers and releases is that they do not fully protect companies anyway. They are basically intended to protect companies from liability if someone suffers injuries or death from something the company could not forsee or prevent. Clearly this tragedy should have been forseen and prevented.

(Interestingly, despite the station knowing about the potential health risk, no paramedics or health care professionals were on site. At the very least, doesn't that hint of negligence?)

That's one side of the argument...BUTTTT.....on the other side...

No one held guns to the heads of any of the participating contestants. People do stupid things that involve serious risks on TV all the time for money and those elusive 15 minutes of fame. Ever heard of Fear Factor, Jackass, Survivor? Look at the risks those show's participants take. Stupid? Absolutely. Their personal choice? Absolutely.

Who knew drinking water could be so deadly? While I feel bad for Jennifer's family, I am reminded that no one MADE anyone participate in the contest. The fact is...SHE participated in a contest that was clearly ill-advised. SHE exercised her free will. SHE signed away her rights via the waiver. SHE drank all that water. Did SHE stop for a minute to think that what she was doing could be dangerous?

This has really been weighing heavily on my mind because of the kids left behind -- and because of the fact that what was done was done for them! Wow...that's a mighty load of guilt they will carry around with them the rest of their lives. I'm sure if given a choice, her kids would choose her being alive over a video game system any day.

What are your thoughts? In this day and age I know we live in a society that is quick to sue. It's a knee-jerk reaction to always want to place blame on "someone" whenever anything goes horribly wrong...and the deeper the pockets...the better. Afterall, someone died, so someone "has to pay." But whatever happened to personal responsibility? Nowadays, it's almost as if those words didn't exist. Whatever happened to being responsible for our own actions and paying the consequences for those actions?

Says Jennifer's family attorney, Roger Dreyer, "The station knew this was a dangerous and potentially deadly stunt, but flippantly dismissed the dangers. Hearing the tape (of the radio show), it's very clear they knew of the dangers and could foresee that this could lead to Jennifer's death. The station's conduct was oppressive, irresponsible and ultimately led to the death of Jennifer Strange."

What are you thinking? Is the radio station responsible? The djs? Jennifer? By firing the djs, hasn't the station indirectly admitted to some kind of fault? The popular consensus around the 'Net seems to be the station ran a dangerous contest and despite the waivers, they are responsible for the outcome. The truth is, these kind of dangerous promotional stunts are done by radio stations all the time. Is it time for them to be stopped?

In my eyes, there's enough blame to go around for everyone. The whole thing makes me terribly sad. I feel so sorry for the kids and other loved ones left behind and I wish healing for all involved.
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you Michelle. I think there is enough blame for everyone on this one. Yes, we can't neglect personal responsibility issue. But, we do have to think about the nature of the contest and what the station and deejays did or didn't do that contributed to this woman's death. There are so many layers to this story and all of them open up various ways of reading what happened. But at the end of the day, like you said, it's those poor motherless babies who will suffer, no matter who we point the finger on. It's a horrible loss.

5:40 PM, January 25, 2007  
Anonymous CreoleInDC said...

Hmmmm....this is almost the exact same thing TDJ said. Guess most bloggers think alike on this one.

9:39 PM, January 25, 2007  
Blogger Michelle said...

@ Gwyneth -- It will be interesting to see how the lawsuit and FCC investigation turn out. Either way, you're right...all the way around, it's a horrible lost.

@ Creole -- I've seen this story on a lot of blogs and a lot of bloggers do seem to be thinking alike on this one. I saw what TDJ posted and her opinion seemed to be that Jennifer was totally at fault for what happened to her. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think both Jennifer AND the radio station were responsible for the outcome – both were negligent.

11:26 AM, January 26, 2007  
Blogger Rose said...

One thing about this whole situation a lesson was taught. How many people ever thought they could die from too much water? Sorry that the young lady had to die though.

1:23 AM, February 11, 2007  
Blogger Rosemarie said...

So glad I'm back online and visiting first here this morning!

Thanks for your encouraging, supportive, and wisdom-filled comments.

"In my eyes, there's enough blame to go around for everyone."

Absolutely! I'm really turned off by the whole "let's sue someone for negligence, because I couldn't fathom actually having any responsibility in the matter."

My stand is that the energy of a so-called victim or their families regarding a particular dispute, or in this case a stunt gone terribly wrong to the extent of fatality, should be used to accelerate awareness concerning the tragedy. Also, counseling professionally as well as through their faith/religion is necessary. There are certain to be questions that need a solid direction.

Unfortunately, there are lessons learned as Rose always points out. It's apparent that Jennifer Strange's actions led to an example for others who may now think twice about stunts, which possibly could be hazardous or have irreversible ramifications.

I'm not sure what Jennifer’s children will keep or dismiss from this circumstance, but one thing for sure stupidity won.

Ignorance is deadly, as we have witnessed in this situation.

8:38 AM, March 02, 2007  

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