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Young mother dies after radio station contest
Sacramento Bee


January 15, 2007

A 28-year-old mother of three died from water intoxication hours after competing in a radio station contest to see which contestant could drink the most water without urinating, according to preliminary autopsy results.



Jennifer Lea Strange was found dead by a family member in her Rancho Cordova, Calif., home around 2 p.m. Sacramento County Assistant Coroner Ed Smith said Strange's mother and husband told coroner's officials the young woman had taken part in a radio contest that morning that was based on drinking large amounts of water.

The winner of the contest reportedly won a new video game system.

Strange told co-workers that she planned to take part in the contest before going to work, and that she was trying to win the game system for her three young children.

Smith described the amount of water Strange drank as "excessive."

A preliminary autopsy "revealed no life-threatening medical conditions to explain (Strange's) sudden death" and initial findings were "consistent with a water intoxication death," according to a Coroner's Office statement issued.

The final cause of death is not expected for several months, the statement said.

"We don't really know for sure how much she drank," Smith said. "But to get water intoxication, you have to drink a lot."

Sacramento sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran, a department spokesman, said there would not be an investigation because "this is not a criminal matter."

Strange's death comes nearly two years after a 21-year-old fraternity pledge at California State University, Chico, died after a night of strenuous exercise and excessive water drinking. Four members of the fraternity later pleaded guilty in connection with his death.

Members of Strange's family declined comment, as did two employees of the radio station.

Tracy Beam, a friend and co-worker of Strange at the administrative offices of Radiological Associates in Sacramento, described the young woman as "selfless" and "totally devoted to her babies."

"She had her hands in anything that had to do with humanitarian activities, diseases, save the Earth or children," said Beam, noting Strange organized her office's entries in an annual breast cancer awareness walk.

Strange told co-workers she was "going to swing by the station on her way to work, do the contest real quick and be right in," Beam said.

"She didn't have any idea of the health factors," Beam said. "She didn't know the extent of what that kind of thing can do to you."

Water intoxication - or hyponatremia - occurs when sodium levels in the blood drop too low because someone has ingested too much water, excreted too much sodium or taken medications that sap important minerals from the body. The body's electrolyte balance is thrown off and the condition can lead to cardiac arrest, Smith said.

In some cases, water intoxication also can lead to a swelling of the brain.

Symptoms of water intoxication include a change in behavior, blurred vision, muscle cramps, nausea, weakness and headaches.



Ryan Lillis can be reached at rlillis(at)
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