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Originally published Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Water death after radio-station contest spurs homicide investigation

Homicide detectives are investigating the death of a woman believed to have been killed by drinking too much water in a radio-station contest...

The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Homicide detectives are investigating the death of a woman believed to have been killed by drinking too much water in a radio-station contest.

On a tape of the Jan. 12 show, disc jockeys on KDND-FM's "Morning Rave" joke about the possible dangers of consuming too much water, at one point alluding to a college student who died during such a stunt in 2005.

A listener called the show to warn the DJs that the stunt was dangerous and that someone could die. "Yeah, we're aware of that," one of them said.

Another DJ laughed: "Yeah, they signed releases, so we're not responsible. We're OK."

"And if they get to the point where they have to throw up, then they're going to throw up, and they're out of the contest before they die, so that's good, right?" another one said.

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department decided to pursue the investigation Wednesday after listening to the tape, obtained by The Sacramento Bee newspaper, sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Tim Curran said.

Jennifer Lea Strange, a 28-year-old mother of three, was one of about 18 contestants who tried to win a Nintendo Wii game console by determining who could drink the most water without going to the bathroom. The show's DJs called the contest "Hold your Wee for a Wii."

"Hey, Carter, is anybody dying in there?" a DJ asked during the show. "We got a guy who's just about to die," the other responded, and all the DJs laughed.

Strange participated in the contest during the morning in the studio and was found dead that afternoon. The county coroner said preliminary autopsy findings indicate she died of water intoxication.

Water intoxication, or hyponatremia, occurs when sodium levels in the blood drop too low. The condition can lead to brain swelling, seizures, coma and death.

On Tuesday, KDND's parent company, Entercom/Sacramento, fired 10 employees connected to the contest, including three morning disc jockeys. The company also took the morning show off the air.

Station spokesman Charles Sipkins said Wednesday that the company had not yet heard from the sheriff's department but that it would cooperate with the investigation.

Attorneys for the Strange family said Wednesday they plan to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against the radio station.

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