Courts & Crime

No way to die: Lawsuit alleges radio contest killed woman

SACRAMENTO — The contest didn't sound all that dangerous. Participants were to drink water without urinating over a three-hour period on KDND's "the Morning Rave" radio program. They were asked to drink 8-ounce bottles every 10 minutes. After they'd consumed eight, they were given 16-ounce bottles to drink every 10 minutes.

The winner would take home a Nintendo Wii game console.

But the January 2007 contest ended badly. One contestant, Jennifer Strange, 28, died, apparently of water intoxication. Another woman claims the "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest left her with a fear of water, and that she can no longer listen to the radio. Another contestant says she has gained 60 pounds and suffers from irrational mood swings. A third worries about her own mortality, "like I am destined to die young, maybe at my own hand."

On Aug. 31, a civil trial is set to begin. The trial centers on the death of Strange, a mother of three. Court documents show how the case unfolded.

Since the contest, the radio station's owners have fired 10 people, including the DJs involved; Strange's fellow contestants developed what they say is an irrational fear of water and sued the broadcaster; Strange's husband and children filed their own wrongful-death suit; and lawyers involved have submitted thousands of pages of claims and counterclaims.

Even the winner of the contest, Lucy Davidson, said she was terribly sick afterward and vomited while still at the station. Now, she says, she can't listen to the radio because she is afraid of contests, and in her job at Wal-Mart she experiences "an inappropriate emotional reaction" when she sees someone put bottled water in their carts.

"I have come to realize that in a way I fear water," she said in a June declaration.

And she was never able to use the Wii at the center of the contest. Instead, it sat in a hall closet for more than a year until she turned it over to her attorney and "felt a huge weight fall off my shoulders."

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