January 19, 2007

Schadenfreude Friday: Dazed on Radio

My Schadenfreude cup runneth over...and hopefully so does my morning cup of coffee...

According to the Sacramento Bee...

Sacramento attorney Roger Dreyer will be announcing a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday in the death of Jennifer Strange, 28, a Rancho Cordova mother of three who died hours after a water-drinking contest at a local radio station. The suit will be filed against The End (KDND 107.9 FM) on behalf of Strange's husband and three children, ages 11 months, 3 and 10 years, according to a Sacramento public relations firm.

Strange died Friday in her Rancho Cordova home. Earlier in the day, she participated in a "Hold your wee for a Wii" contest -- drinking what one contestant said was nearly two gallons of water in the kitchen of the station's Madison Avenue office. The idea of the contest was to drink as much water without going to the bathroom; Strange came in second place. The Sacramento County Coroner said an autopsy shows Strange had no serious medical conditions and a death consistent with water intoxication.

Now, I realize there are a few different ways of looking at this but no matter which perspective from which you prefer to view the situation, there are three kids who aren't getting their mom back.

Strange, by most accounts, signed a waiver intended to absolve the radio station of any blame. Multiple callers chimed in warning that something like this may happen. In clips of the show I've heard - arguably the most uncomfortable radio I've heard in a long, long time - the DJs acknowledge this and even joke about death. So does Strange. Following the tragedy, the entire morning team of DJs as well as a few other radio station employees were fired.

I ask you - who's at fault? Who, if anyone, should be held accountable?

The Most Foreseeable Schadenfreude: Lindsay Lohan Checks Into Rehab, Dozens of Bartenders Mourn

Separation of Church and State Schadenfreude: Methodists Oppose Bush Library at Southern Methodist University, Ministers Placed on Terrorist Watch List

Paging Dr. Schadenfreude: Grey's Anatomy Cast Member Opens Mouth Again: Tonguectomy Recommended

Posted by Chris at January 19, 2007 7:30 AM

I don't think the radio station should be held accountable. Nor do I think 10 of the radio station employees should have been fired. Yes, it may have been a stupid stunt. But guess what? So is the Polar Bear Plunge, where hundres, and possibly thousands of us idiots are going to go running into the chesapeak bay next Saturday, to raise money for the special olympics.

I feel bad for the children; no doubt the mother was trying to do this for her kids, to win her kids the Wii. I haven't heard any of the clips, but I'm sure the DJ's are just like any other DJ's. Who really thinks that someone would actually die from a contest that they hold?

I kinda wrote a novel, but this is one of those things that kind of got to me. ^^; Regardless, it's sad that the woman passed away, and I feel bad for her family, especially her kids. But I don't think the radio personalities should be held accountable for it.

Posted by: Sechakecha at January 19, 2007 8:16 AM

It will be interesting to see the outcome of that lawsuit. Our local radio station (and I'm sure stations in every city) do these dumb contests all the time and I'm often shocked at how dangerous some of them can be. I bet this changes radio contests. Our station had one to win tickets to something or another where guys volunteered to get kicked in the hooha......I dont see how the pain of that could be worth ANY concert....

Posted by: Lisa at January 19, 2007 8:17 AM

Is the person who sells someone rope at the hardware store responsible if that customer goes home and hangs himself? It may seem unrelated, but bear with me momentarily.

The DJs created a situation wherein the woman's life was endangered. Certainly some of the fault is there. Similarly, by selling rope the hardware store worker created a situation wherein the customer's life was in (admittedly less immediate, less obvious) danger.

However, ultimately the actions of the individual result in their demise. The woman could have stopped drinking water at any time. The customer doesn't have to go home and hang himself. The made a choice, albeit a poor and unfortunate one.

The lawsuit is no different than the spouse of the hardware store customer suing the store for wrongful death because they sold him the rope.

It is a tragic situation, but really, the woman brought it upon herself.

Posted by: Jeff at January 19, 2007 8:20 AM

Sadly, this sort of thing has happened before. I remember as a child (in the 70s) my father telling me, "Did you know you can die from drinking too much water?" Then he went on to describe a RADIO CONTEST where contestants were asked to drink as many tiny cups of water as possible.

In other news, I hope that the media will take it easy on Lindsey as she tries to get straight. It's hard enough for a regular girl to get sober; I can't imagine trying to do it with Perez Hilton talking smack about you.

Have a nice weekend, Chris!

Posted by: kalisah at January 19, 2007 8:21 AM

(Umm...I got ahead of myself, but yes, someone died in that radio contest in the 70s.)

Posted by: kalisah at January 19, 2007 8:22 AM

I think of it this way: If you get into a car and you don't wear your seatbelt, you put yourself in harm's way. Then, if a drunk driver hits you, while he/she is certainly at fault for CAUSING the accident, there are certain claims that can't be made against that driver given that you didn't take adequate precautions against the event of a collision.

Unlike an experimental medical procedure which has risks, this radio show was a joke...a gag to get listeners. These guys knew they were doing something dangerous and there should be some consequences meted out for even promoting something like this. But, if the public is savvy and smart (which we know they're not--Hello, "Fear Factor"), no one will take them up on the offer. Someone did. Someone who was fully cognizant of the risks. And she died.

In the end, she's the person without the seatbelt and the DJs are the drunk drivers. There are tons of ways each day one can take part in senseless acts which are risky or life-threatening. We're not obligated to participate. That's what common sense is for.

They share in the blame, but ultimately it's her fault. Poor kids.

Posted by: wordgirl at January 19, 2007 9:15 AM

I've been following this story because hey, it's Sacramento. And I have a fondness for that wonderful city. At first I thought this case was a wash - both parties hold some responsibility, waiver or no. However, upon hearing one of the radio station employees brush off contestant medical complaints with "the headache will tell their body to throw up, so it'll be okay" (paraphrase), I started to look at it a little differently. First of all, waivers shouldn't waive the radio station of acting like moral, conscious human beings. If you know this is potentially life-threatening, why would you sit back and allow them to continue? Were there any medical staff on hand to keep an eye on the contestants? I think the biggest problem is that the radio station fell through in other ways that have nothing to do with the waiver. First of all, it was a stupid stunt, period. Second of all, it doesn't appear that they (the station) took any kind of precautions other than to have these people sign a waiver. My question is what exactly did the waiver say? Did it spell out that they could die doing this? Did it list possible symptoms of water intoxication?

I just can't place a ton of blame on the woman. Maybe that's just me.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at January 19, 2007 9:17 AM

I still don't see the benefit of having a Bush Presidential library to a university...

What good is a stack of Archie comics going to do them?

Posted by: Kaz at January 19, 2007 9:21 AM

I think radio stations need to be more responsible about awareness of the risks of some of their stupid contests - but I don't think the right course of action in this case was to fire everyone after the fact here. What does that really solve? Overall, the station and it's employees played a role in her death, yes, but no one forced her to do this.

Posted by: Traci at January 19, 2007 9:23 AM

If the jocks knew the risk and ignored it, they deserve to be fired and incarcerated for willful endangerment. If the radio station knew the risk and approved the contest, they are the ones who should bear the burden of the families law suit. If the woman signed a waiver, then the suit should be dropped and maybe, just maybe, her kids will learn to read what you're signing.

The shame of the whole situation is that the station approved the contest because they thought it would be great for ratings and then the second things went sour they fired the cast of the show, as if it were the shows fault. Fire your lawyers, dumbasses. If you approved the contest, at least have the balls to stand behind it when it goes sour.

Also, tell Beth to put back the full feed. ;)

Posted by: Adam at January 19, 2007 9:25 AM

Bush is a Methodist. So am I. The church leaders tried to meet with him before the war to suggest it was a bad idea and he ignored them as he ignored everyone except the neocons.

We're still, as a denomination, against it and he's still ignoring us.

Our motto is open hands, open hearts, open minds but he's pushing even our level of tolerance.

Posted by: ann adams at January 19, 2007 9:46 AM

Isn't that what a waiver is FOR? Look, sometimes you can't protect people from stupidity, especially their own. It's terribly tragic and stupid and hopefully other stupid people (both DJs who promote a stunt like this and listeners who agree to participate in it) might learn a lesson from this. If she went on record saying that she knew death was a definite possibility, I don't know how this lawsuit can even go forward.

Posted by: Fraulein N at January 19, 2007 9:49 AM

All for a damn videogame.

Posted by: Heather at January 19, 2007 9:49 AM

I think the DJ's and the station are at fault, along with the woman. All parties involved needed to do proper research. All parties involved needed to know ahead of time how much too much would be. And if the stunt is dangerous, the station shouldn't have done it.

Posted by: kara marie at January 19, 2007 9:57 AM

I think it's rational to assume that neither the people holding the contest nor the contest participants thought that death by water was a real possibility, despite the advice from callers.

That being said, the people holding the contest should have researched it first. I hold them about 75% responsible. I don't think it was a criminal act, but I think a settlement from a rich conglomo-radio-station for the kids would be appropriate.

Posted by: Brad at January 19, 2007 10:11 AM

I think the DJ's are at fault to some extent, but when, WHEN???, are people going to stop being so stupid in hopes of getting 15 minutes of fame and some cash (or fabulous prizes)?

Remember when Dave Barry wrote that column about a new game show he was making up called "Eat Bugs For Money"? And it seemed so out there, even for him? Yeah, I miss that.

I hope Lindsay Lohan gets cleaned up, there are already too many child actors whose lives have imploded. Though, given how screwed up her family seems to be, the poor kid probably wouldn't have had a chance, even in private life.

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at January 19, 2007 10:15 AM

Hello? Didn't some college kid die of water intoxication a few years ago at a frat party? When are people gonna start learning from what's already happened?

Posted by: Sijbrich at January 19, 2007 10:55 AM

Isiah Washington from Grey's Anatomy will probably enter rehab to deal with alcoholism that caused him to keep spouting off about whether he did or didn't call T.R. Knight a "insert anti-gay slur here". Isn't how they deal with that sort of thing these days?

Posted by: coolchick at January 19, 2007 11:25 AM

Water Death: Yes, a kid in Chico died in 2005 from water poisoning: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/02/04/BAGNSB576121.DTL

I put the blame on the radio station FIRST for not doing a lick of research on the effect of water bingeing, and then the contestants, for not doing any research either.

Lindsey Lohan: Rehab??? Why??? I mean, she's been going to AA for a year, and she's been drinking all that bottled "water." I don't get it.

Bush Library at SMU: Dallas is 40 miles away from where I live and that's STILL too close for my comfort. Don't want to have anything to do with a Bush library in these parts. No sirree Bob.

Grey's Anatomy: I think a foot-ectomy needs to come before the toungectomy. And then a cast member-ectomy. What a misogynist asshole.

Posted by: fw sunshine at January 19, 2007 11:52 AM

Personally, I won't be satisfied until Howard Stern has an on-air Russian roulette tourney, AND we get to pick the contestants.

Posted by: bhd at January 19, 2007 2:42 PM

That whole thing was sad. And for a gaming system that costs $250? When her kids should arguably be doing something more active and educational (even though I'm sure my kids will be video game officiandos since I can't pull the controller out of my husband's hands so I should get off my soapbox on that point)? So not worth it. Posessions aren't nearly important enough.

Posted by: Jessie at January 19, 2007 3:10 PM

I learned about water intoxication in grade ten, I think? I can't believe they did that concert, when common sense tells you that the body can only handle so much! I think the radio station does hold most of the responsibility in this case. Any contests involving physical risk should be okayed by a medical professional.

Posted by: Heather at January 19, 2007 3:35 PM

I am raising my fist in protest alongside those SMU professors/ministers. I am just so embarrassed our President is a fellow Methodist - he's totally sold out to the religious right. Most of us have more sense than that, but then again, not as much money as he does now...if that makes any sense.

Posted by: Sam at January 19, 2007 3:36 PM

Okay I've followed this because I live in Sacramento--so it's all over the news. Secondly I was a DJ for about a year, and also worked for Clear channel in other fields so this is all too close to home.

I think, the DJ are entertainers, and I think they shouldn't be libel for the death of this woman. She is an adult and NO one made her drink that water for a $250 video game. Yes those kids and husband are missing a wife and mother and I deeply sympathize--I really and truly do. What I don't sympathize is people suing for spilled hot coffee, eating Twinkies that make them fat, and for drinking too much water that eventually kills them. People just don't take responsibility for their own actions, it was an AWFUL thing that happened but it was choice she as a grown adult choose to do. It’s become a place where it’s always someone else’s fault. We’ve become a nation of victims.

Posted by: Michele at January 19, 2007 5:42 PM

That Strange story has been talked about incessantly here (we're near Sacramento). Although it was utterly irresponsible of the station (and that prank couldn't have been done by the DJ's without their station manager's approval--so I hope she or he got fired, too), it's incomprehensible to me what people will do to win a GADGET.

Posted by: Marilyn at January 20, 2007 9:57 AM

I had to look this one up- never heard of water intoxication. But considering the woman did sign a waver, I don't think anyone should be able to sue. And even if the radio station's employees who came up with this stunt/contest/whatever were unaware of the possible outcomes, the contestants should have taken the time to understand what they were getting into. I'm sure there's many resources online that could have told them what they were getting into- heck, I found info on my first stop at Wikipedia. As others have expressed, no one forced her to do this; she did it on her own. It's sad for the family, but she made that choice.

Posted by: Debra at January 20, 2007 6:19 PM

all i can say is: i'm glad i don't have to be the one to decide.

Posted by: s@bd at January 20, 2007 11:29 PM

Although I don't attend church now, I was raised Methodist (United Methodist, if you want to get technical). My father is a retired U.M. minister, as is my uncle. My brother is a U.M. minister. Our great-grandfather on our mother's side was a Methodist minister. There's history there.

I am offended that George W. Bush is a Methodist. His actions do not reflect the United Methodist Church, so I applaud the opposition to his library at SMU.

Not that I am tooting the UMC's horn. Ann Adams mentioned the motto, "Open hands, open hearts, open minds," but that's a bit hypocritical considering the Church's stance on gays in the ministry and gay marriage.

That said, my dad, brother, and uncle are all very open-minded.

Sorry for the long comment. I got riled up!

Posted by: Alison at January 21, 2007 1:27 AM

What a tragic loss. I still can't believe the way she died. The nurse at work said that it's so dangerous because you become diluted and stuff like potassium levels go way down. They shouldn't sue. It's all about personal responsibility and being aware of what one puts in one's own body.

To think that nothing happens to those people that eat like 50 weiners, but water. Too sad.

Posted by: nila at January 21, 2007 2:23 AM

Hi Chris,
Your friendly Sacramento observer here. This was all that was in the news for a week. Here's my take. Responsible radio stations do not pull life threatening stunts to increase ratings. Most radio commentators here agree that she was an adult that was responsible for her own behavior, but all also agreed that no responsible station manager would have let DJs open them up to the potential for such significant litigation.

One thing Roger Dreyer pointed out is that the radio station had refused to release the "release" to them. Now, whenever I signed a release, I was provided a copy of said release. I would suspect that we'll hear that the dangers were not made clear to the contestants, which will be what the case will hinge upon. I'm kind of surprised they didn't have medical professionals available on-site when at least some of those involved knew what dangers potentially awaited.

The fact that 10 staffers were fired tells me that the radio station doubts the righteousness of their position.

But, worst of all, three kids are without a mother. Nothing gets worse than that.

Posted by: Lori at January 21, 2007 6:41 PM

While tragic, I think they ALL hold at least some measure of fault.

Posted by: Queen of Ass at January 21, 2007 7:28 PM

I realize that it is only human to want to hold somebody accountable, but she was an adult and she knew the danger. The fact that she didn't take them seriously is unfortunate.

It was obviously a very sad and stupid thing for everyone involved.

My only thoughts are for her children.

Posted by: whit at January 21, 2007 9:11 PM

When did everyone in this country turn off their brains? Was it right after the first season of Fear Factor? Or can we blame American Idol? I just don't understand how any of these folks make it to adulthood. Those poor kids are now without a mother.

Posted by: Annie at January 22, 2007 12:17 AM


Posted by: Chris at January 22, 2007 10:48 AM