Canadian Punjabi chokes on 'gulab jamuns', family to sue eating contest organisers
The family of a Surrey-based Punjabi man, who suffered brain damage after choking at an eating contest at a Diwali celebration last year, is preparing to sue organisers of the event.
Samaljit Aulakh, 36, has been in a hospital bed, unable to walk, talk or eat by himself, since he choked on 'gulab jamuns' during an eating contest at the annual festival in Surrey in November 2012.
The contest was organised by Surrey's ethnic radio station 93.1 RED FM.
Samaljit's 10-year-old son Pawan, who was in the audience, watched in horror as his father choked and fainted that day.
"I was really scared," Pawan told Vancouver Desi. "He stopped breathing."
Pawan said he was with his dad when event organisers picked him out of the crowd to take part in the contest.
The contestants were told they had to eat a plate full of 'gulab jamuns' using only their mouths, he recalled.
Kamal Aulakh said her husband ate about seven or eight in less than a minute.
He then stood up and started vomiting, Pawan added, recounting that organisers told his father he would be disqualified if he couldn't keep the food in. Pawan said his dad then tried to swallow the food again. That's when he fainted, he said.
Although there were paramedics at the contest, Pawan said they didn't have proper equipment to clear his dad's airway and a second ambulance needed to be called.
Samaljit started choking around 2:40 pm, while the BC Ambulance Service received a call about a choking incident around 3:05 pm. His wife said he was without oxygen for more than 20 minutes, and spent 10 days in coma.
Repeated requests for comment from RED FM were not returned on Tuesday. In a previous interview, the station said they were looking into the incident, and had been "in constant touch with the family".
But Kamal said those claims are untrue, and that no one from the radio station has called her or visited at the hospital.
Although the family is facing mounting bills as Kamal has stopped working to be at her husband's side, she said the family's plan to sue the radio station was "not for money".
She said she wanted RED FM to be held accountable and for people to be aware of the dangers of eating contests.