When Jacintha Saldanha answered the prank phone call from Australian DJs inquiring about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy she may have been contemplating taking her own life. The nurse’s cause of death hasn’t been officially ruled a suicide but multiple media outlets have implied that it looks likely. Her death, if inspired by the Aussie DJs, would unfortunately not be the first death brought on by a radio prank.
Saldanha had worked at King Edward VII’s Hospital for more than four years and, according to the hospital’s statement to the Telegraph, her fellow staff members “had been supporting her through this difficult time,” possibly giving some credibility to the claims that the prank impacted her mental state.
“It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession,” the statement said.
Matthew Keys of Reuters reported that both DJs involved in the stunt had been fired and their Twitter accounts had been taken down. Five years ago radio DJs for KDND-FM in Sacramento, California were facing similar repercussions for their “Hold Your Wee for A Wii” contest.
Jennifer Strange was 28 years old and a married mother of three when she died of water intoxication in an attempt to drink as much water as possible without using the bathroom. Strange came in second place among 20 contestants who were trying to win a Nintendo Wii and, even people started looking sickly, were made fun of by the radio DJs.
“There was a girl on the floor," one contestant told the San Francisco Chronicle. "She must have been there for an hour with her teeth chattering. They were heckling her.”
At one point a listener called into the radio station and told the jocks that it was, in fact, possible to die from water poisoning even though the human body is made up of mostly liquids.
“We're aware of that,” one DJ said, saying the contestants had signed releases “so we’re not responsible.”
The DJs ignored so many warnings and joked to such an extent about how they didn’t care about the contestants that the police department eventually decided to investigate the prank. A jury eventually awarded the Strange family $16.5 million dollars, finding the death could have easily been avoided. Attorney Richard Dreyer spoke after the verdict.
“From day one, we have wanted to make certain that the media in the nation, particularly radio media…understand they can’t have these kinds of contests without taking necessary steps to research them and educate the people participating.”