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Water-Dead Woman’s Family Sues Radio Station KDND

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The lawyer representing the family of a 28-year-old mother of three who died two weeks ago while participating in a shock-radio contest charged Thursday that the only thing the station cared about was posting explicit photos of sick contestants on its Web site.

Roger Dreyer, attorney for the family of Jennifer Lea Strange, made the accusation at a press conference announcing the filing of a lawsuit against the station, its owners and the radio show staff.

“Such conduct was despicable and so vile, base or contemptible that it would be looked down upon and despised by reasonable people,” the lawsuit read.

The lawsuit alleges that KDND-FM, DJs and other employees were negligent in failing to research the contest and warn participants about the serious risks, and that they failed to get medical help for the participants after they began getting sick.

Jennifer Strange died Jan. 12, hours after finishing second in the water-drinking contest on KDND’s “Morning Rave” program. The top prize of the contest was a Nintendo Wii video game console.

Dreyer spoke at a press conference Thursday, saying the radio station has ignored requests to hand over photos taken of participants during the contest, as well as other materials.

“They took pictures of people vomiting, laying on the floor and having tremendous shutdown. We’re looking forward to seeing those pictures,” said Dreyer.

Dreyer also said he does not believe a waiver of liability signed by Strange exists.

Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for KDND’s parent company, Entercom/Sacramento, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Strange was interviewed several hours into the program, saying she looked pregnant because her belly was swollen with water and complaining that her head hurt. “This is what it feels like when you’re drowning,” one of the disc jockeys said.

After one caller warned that water intoxication could be fatal, one DJ said, “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?”

Strange’s mother also spoke at the press conference, expressing her anger over the actions of the radio station.

“Just knowing that she was there and she was suffering and they had knowledge and they did nothing about it. How imhumane can a person be? I just don’t understand that.”

The lawsuit lists 50 defendants, including Entercom, the disc jockeys who hosted the contest and employees and managers who organized, promoted and participated in it.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, seeks unspecified medical, legal, burial and funeral costs.

It also seeks punitive damages for the loss of companionship for Strange’s husband and their children, who are 11 months, 3 and 11 years old.

Also Thursday, a spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission said the agency has joined the investigation into Strange’s death at the request of the family. The family’s lawyers have asked that KDND be taken off the air.

Like most California radio stations, KDND’s broadcasting license expired on Dec. 1, 2005. The station’s renewal application is still pending, according to FCC records. The FCC could fine the station or deny its application for renewal if it finds wrongdoing.

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