DIWALI: Surrey celebration cancelled after man chokes during eating competition

Published: November 10, 2012

Diwali dancers perform in Vancouver in 2010. Diwali celebrations at a Surrey shopping centre were cancelled Saturday afternoon after a man choked during an eating competition. Submitted photo


A crowd watched in horror Saturday afternoon when a man choked during an eating competition at a Diwali celebration and was taken to hospital.

The annual event, which has seen up to 10,000 people attend in past years, is sponsored by local radio station RED 93.1 FM and hosted at Central City Shopping Centre’s outdoor plaza.

“He was eating and he choked,” said RED FM’s general manager Bijoy Samuel. “We cancelled [the rest of the party] and now just trying to proceed.”

The man, believed to be in his mid-30s, was taken to Surrey Memorial Hospital and was reportedly breathing normally last night. No further updates were available by press time.

According to Samuel, the incident happened around 2:40 p.m., shortly after the gulab jamun eating competition began.

Surrey resident Sunny Mangat was in the audience with his 15-year-old son and had witnessed the incident. He said the man seemed to be trying to get something out of his throat and when that appeared to fail, he took a sip of water to try and help with the swallowing.

“He managed to finish … ahead of the others,” Mangat said, noting the competitors were all volunteers picked from the crowd. “While the [MC] was still talking, commending their efforts, this guy just stood up and fell backwards.”

B.C. Ambulance Service confirmed they received a call for a choking victim around 3:05 p.m. Soon after the man was taken to hospital, Mangat said the stage and plaza were cleared and crew members began packing away equipment.

“It was shocking to see,” Mangat said. “To be honest, I’m still a little shaken and so is my son.”

The free family event had been expected to run into the evening and was set to feature a number of performances including one by popular bhangra singer Lehmber Hussainpuri.

Gulab jamun is a popular Indian desert similar to a Timbit, made from a milk-based dough, which is deep-fried and covered in a sweet syrup.


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