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With Florida death, Six Flags in Gurnee ‘reviewing’ cockroach eating contest

Danny Goodale 16 Gurnee prepares eMadagascar hissing cockroach during promotifor Fright Fest Six Flags GreAmerica. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times media

Danny Goodale, 16, of Gurnee, prepares to eat a Madagascar hissing cockroach during a promotion for Fright Fest at Six Flags Great America. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times media

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Updated: October 9, 2012 9:36PM

The death of a South Florida man following a cockroach-eating contest near Miami last Friday has officials at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee reviewing whether or not to stage its “Friday Night Feast,” a weekly contest during Fright Fest that invites guests to eat five Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

“We were sorry to learn about the unfortunate incident at the reptile store in Florida and our hearts go out to the gentleman’s friends and family,” park officials said Tuesday. “We are confident our eating contests are safe as the insects we use are raised specifically for human consumption. Insects are considered a delicacy in many cultures; however, even though this appears to be an isolated incident, we are reviewing the eating contests at our parks to ensure we maintain a safe environment for our guests.”

According to a report from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, 32-year-old Edward Archbold of West Palm Beach became ill shortly after a competition at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach, about 40 miles north of Miami.

“Shortly after the contest was over, [Archbold] wasn’t feeling well and began to regurgitate,” the report stated. “He had consumed dozens of roaches and worms. He later collapsed in front of the store. Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue responded to the scene and transported Archbold to Broward Health North, where he was later pronounced dead.”

The report added that “none of the other contestants presented any medical issues after the contest,” and the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office had conducted an autopsy and was awaiting test results in order to determine a cause of death.

Great America’s Fright Fest has staged cockroach-eating contests off and on since the 2006 season, with prizes ranging from front-of-the-line tickets to season passes for the next operating year. The original contest featured baked roaches, but the 2012 version challenges participants to eat live bugs, which are about two to three inches in length and an inch or more wide.

The season’s inaugural contest was held last Friday, and return engagements are scheduled for this Friday, Oct. 19 and Oct. 26.

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