A man died after being transported from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to the hospital during the first quarter of the Florida vs. Vanderbilt game Saturday.
Police have not confirmed his identity or cause of death as of Oct. 9, but witnesses said he choked on a concessions food item.
The man was around 60 years old and had underlying medical conditions that may have contributed to his death, University Police Department spokesperson Linda Stump said. It is not unusual for the elderly to need medical assistance during game days, which is why the university has a robust medical staff available, Stump added.
The man was seated in section 321 with his family. He was choking on a pretzel or a hotdog, said Jorden Moats, a 22-year-old Tennessee resident and off-duty police officer.
Moats, who was seated near him in section 320, said he helped lift the man up while a family member performed the Heimlich maneuver to help get the food out of his throat. He said an off-duty nurse also helped in unsuccessful attempts to revive him.
“I was just holding him up because I could tell he was choking,” Moats said. “Once people in the area knew what was going on a lot of people came over to try to help.”
When paramedics arrived, Moats said they brought a stair stretcher to remove him from the stadium quickly while still trying to revive him.
Isaac Freeman, a 36-year-old Gator fan, wrote he was in the same section when the man was being given CPR.
“It really took the crowd out of the game,” Freeman wrote. “We could tell pretty quickly that it was a serious situation.”
Freeman said the incident lasted about 15 minutes.
“[The] gentleman was convulsing and foaming at the mouth,” Freeman wrote. “Once EMT arrived they started CPR immediately.”
He said CPR lasted for several minutes but “from the looks of it he was already passed.”
Alexis Moats was also at the scene while her fiance, Jorden Moats, assisted the man. They traveled to Gainesville for the day as Vanderbilt fans.
Alexis, a 20-year-old Tennessee resident, ushered the children away from the man choking because she believed he was their grandfather. She said her main priority was to get the children away from the scene.
“They were scared,” Alexis said. “They were crying, they were upset, they were overwhelmed. So I just took it as my job to make sure they were not seeing it firsthand.”
This story is developing. Check back for updates.
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Isabella Douglas is a fourth-year journalism major and the Fall 2023 editor-in-chief for The Alligator. She has previously worked as the digital managing editor, metro editor, criminal justice reporter and as a news assistant. When she isn't reporting, she can be found reorganizing her bookshelf and adding books to her ever-growing TBR.