MIAMI -- Edward Archbold was willing to do anything to win an exotic python -- even eating bugs both crunchy and slimy.
His competitive spirit ended in tragedy. After downing more than 20 giant creepy-crawlies, Mr. Archbold vomited, collapsed and died. The grand prize has been put aside in his name and will be given to his estate.
Friday night's contest at a Deerfield Beach, Fla., reptile store started with a party atmosphere, with food and drink -- besides the bugs. The insect-eating began with an eye on the prize: a female Ivory Ball python that sells for $700.
Mr. Archbold, 32, wasn't a "snake enthusiast" himself, said shop owner Ben Siegel, and it was the first time the West Palm Beach man had been in the store. Mr. Siegel described Mr. Archbold as someone who would be "up for anything."
"He seemed like kind of a wild guy -- he was wearing a bandanna, wrist bands and a shirt that said 'Event Staff,' " Mr. Siegel said. "He was brought there by his friend, and he was trying to win the snake for him."
According to rules posted in an online forum, the prize would go to "the guy or gal that eats the most bugs in four minutes without vomiting."
Mr. Archbold was a crowd-pleaser, downing discoid roaches and worms one by one and winning the contest. But he started throwing up before he was able to collect the prize python. He collapsed outside the store and was taken to Broward Health North, where he was pronounced dead.
His body was taken to the Broward Medical Examiner's Office, and investigators with the Broward Sheriff's Office are awaiting an autopsy report to determine what killed him.
The store owner said it wasn't the food. Discoid roaches, Mr. Siegel said, are "eaten by people all over the world." The roaches served up at the contest were domestically raised. "They're clean -- raised for exotic pet feed," he said. "We sell expensive animals, and these bugs are perfectly safe."
Nearly 30 people participated in the contest Friday night, according to Mr. Siegel.