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Jury awards $16 million to family in fatal radio prank [Updated]

October 29, 2009 |  4:49 pm

A Sacramento jury today awarded $16 million to the family of a woman who died during a 2007 radio station contest gone awry.

The Sacramento County Superior Court jury concluded that Entercom Sacramento, which operates KDND-FM (107.9) "The End," was negligent after ignoring several warnings that a morning show contest could have fatal consequences, according to KTXL-TV (Channel 40) in Sacramento.

Jennifer Strange, a mother of three from suburban Rancho Cordova, died of apparent water intoxication hours after a failed attempt to win a Nintendo Wii video game system for her children in a promotion dubbed "Hold Your Wee for a Wii."

A tape of the program, known as the "Morning Rave" on KDND, revealed that the potential fatal effects of drinking too much water were raised during the course of the contest, with one on-air host mentioning the 2005 death of a college student during a hazing ritual in Chico. A listener also called in to advise against the stunt.

Strange — one of 20 contestants — initially joked lightheartedly with the show hosts as she and the others chugged bottled water. But as the hours wore on, it came down to Strange and one other woman contending for the grand prize, and she admitted to having a splitting headache and feeling wobbly. Strange quipped on the air that "it looks like I'm pregnant again."

After finishing in second place, Strange rushed with contest winner Lucy Davidson to the station's bathroom to vomit. Strange called her employer to say she was too sick to come in and headed home. Her mother discovered her body that afternoon.

[Updated at 5:31 p.m.: Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for Entercom, said in a statement: “Jennifer Strange’s death was a tragedy. Our hearts go out to all of her loved ones, including, in particular, her husband and children. While legal restrictions preclude us from commenting further on the verdict, we respect the jury’s decision and hope that it will assist the Strange family in coping with its loss.”]

—Shelby Grad

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