Broward County

Roach-eating champion choked to death on bug parts, autopsy finds

 

An autopsy determined that Eddie Archbold choked to death last month after he won a contest, and a snake, at an exotic-pet store in Deerfield Beach.

aedgerton@MiamiHerald.com

The South Florida man who died after winning a roach-eating contest choked on “anthropod body parts” and his own vomit, according to a report released Monday by the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office.

More than 30 people participated in the Oct. 6 contest to win rare snakes at Ben Siegel Reptiles in Deerfield Beach, but Eddie Archbold, 32, of West Palm Beach was the only one who got sick. From the qualifying round to the grand prize ivory ball python contest, Archbold ate almost 2 ounces of meal worms, 35 horn worms and a bucketful of discoid roaches.

A video shows Archbold forcing handfuls of the live bugs down his throat, covering his mouth with his hands to keep them from crawling out. He appears to be half-chewing as he swallows, finally pounding on his chest and raising his arms in triumph with bug parts poking out of his mouth.

Bill Kern, a University of Florida entomologist who has eaten his share of insects, speculated that it could have been a physical or psychological reaction that made Archbold throw up soon after the contest.

“If he was eating discoids, that’s a big insect,” Kern said. “When you bite into it, you’re going to get a gush of fat bodies, the gut content and the hemolymph — essentially insect blood. As you bite down, that’s going to put pressure on the exoskeleton, so when it’s ruptured, it’s going to squirt.”

Kern also described the legs of discoids as “covered with pretty stout spines” that could irritate the esophagus and stomach, in addition to the “crunchy, leathery, paper-like wings you have to chew up.”

That disagreeable experience was echoed by Matthew Karwacki, a 26-year-old student at Florida Career College who downed worms and crickets in the same contest. He tapped out after one roach because he “didn’t have his mind in the right place.”

“If you look at it in a real sense, they’re just invertebrates — no different than shrimp or crabs,” Karwacki said, speaking admirably of Archbold’s mental control. “If you caught them in baskets in Maryland, people would put Old Bay [seasoning] on them and gobble them down.”

Karwacki said he spoke with Archbold after the contest, and he appeared to be fine.

“When he was done, he was pretty stoked about it,” Karwacki said. “I congratulated him and told him, ‘You’re a better man than I.’ ”

After Archbold won the contest and an $850 ivory ball python, he started vomiting outside the reptile store. He collapsed a few doors down, and was taken to Broward Health North, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

No one from the reptile store, 3314 W. Hillsboro Blvd., was available for comment Monday.

Owner Ben Seigel told The Miami Herald last month that all contestants had signed a waiver absolving the store of any liability. This was the store’s first bug-eating contest, but Seigel said it is not unusual for employees and customers to dare each other to eat the specially raised and sterile insects sold in the store as pet food for reptiles.

Kern, the entomologist, said insects were “probably only a peripheral cause” of Archbold’s death. Consuming such large volumes of any food so quickly could cause someone to choke or start vomiting, he said.

“Eating bugs is something that a fourth of the world’s population does,” he said. “But usually we cook them first.”

Read more Top Stories stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category