The Tator

Student dies in lunchtime stampede in Davies Center

More stories from Stephanie Smith


Last Tuesday at 12 p.m. UW-Eau Claire suffered a great loss.

John Fell, a first-year student studying psychology at Eau Claire, died trying to get chicken tenders and fries from Blu Flame Grill during his hour-long break between classes.

Fell and his roommate, Steven Brown, a first-year student studying history, met up every Tuesday in Davies on the first floor to eat lunch together.

Brown said he started to worry when Fell didn’t return to the table they saved before waiting in line to grab food.

“I came back to the table with my teriyaki bowl and started to eat it,” Brown said. “I was about halfway done when I started to get worried about John. He usually comes back right away but it was taking him longer than usual to get his chicken tenders.”

According to a Sodexo chef, Hammy Burger, from the Blu Flame Grill, there was a long line of students waiting for the chicken tenders and fries.

Burger said placing the chicken tenders on the counter always gives him anxiety. He said he can feel the pressure of students eyeing him up and down and watching his every move, waiting to pounce as soon she he puts the freshly made chicken tenders on the counter.

“It really is terrifying watching these kids run around Davies, with crazy eyes full of hunger, trying to find a table during the busy hours and having time to get some food before they have to go back to class,” Burger said.  “Something needs to be done — we can’t have kids dying over chicken tenders.”

According to police reports, Burger had just put out a fresh batch of chicken tenders and Fell was one of the first to get some. However, as soon as he grabbed his chicken and was starting to turn around, the rest of the students came rushing toward him with arms outstretched and mouths salivating.

Students pushed and shoved Fell, he fell to the ground and tried to protect himself by covering his head, police said.

The students in desperate need of chicken were too “hangry” to realize they were stepping on Fell. By the time anyone noticed him on the ground, it was too late.

Chancellor James C. Schmidt said he and the rest of campus are saddened by this tragic incident and said changes need to be made.

“We need to have a better system in our food court,” Schmidt said. “We either need to have our staff make chicken tenders faster and more frequently so there is no line or waiting time, or we have to completely rip apart the first floor of Davies and make the food court bigger and more spacious. I mean, why not add more construction to campus?”

Fell’s roommate is upset over the matter and said he wishes he could have helped somehow.

“I feel horrible,” Brown said. “I should have gotten up to go find him when he didn’t come back right away. But I was just too busy eating my teriyaki bowl to feel the need to investigate his whereabouts.”

Student Senate will be having a meeting next Monday where they will gather to talk about this incident and how they can prevent things like this from happening in the future.