The family of a Surrey, B.C., father who suffered brain damage after choking at an eating contest at a Diwali celebration last year, says it is considering legal action against the event organizers.

Samaljit (Sunny) Aulakh, 36, has been in hospital, unable to speak or walk, since November, when he took his son to the Diwali celebration in Surrey, sponsored by local radio station Red FM.

Aulakh got up on stage to participate in an eating contest involving gulab jamuns, soft doughy Indian sweets the size of Timbits.


Sunny Aulakh has been in hospital, unable to speak or walk, since November. (CBC)

"They called him the winner, and once he stood up, I guess he was choking on the food, which caused him to pass out and have a stroke, and from the stroke he now has brain damage," said niece Inderjeet Daleh.

Aulakh's 10-year-old son, Pawan, watched as the first ambulance arrived.

"After my dad ate, he [stood] up and I think he felt dizzy and he fell down.… I felt very scared and I started to cry," Pawan said.

"I see him, he's all bluish and he can't breathe properly," added wife Kamal Aulakh.

Aulakh's family said a second ambulance with equipment to clear his trachea had to be called for help.

He ended up in a coma for 10 days, unable to go to back to his job or his fun-loving and active self, they said.

The family said Red FM, the Punjabi language radio station that held the contest, failed to have proper safety measures in place.

"If you're putting on a show like this, and having contests like this, you should have some kind of safety," said niece Inderjeet Daleh. "There should be some paramedics on site equipped and ready."

Aulakh was not asked to sign a waiver of liability before entering the competition, Daleh said.

Red FM could not be reached for comment.

Aulakh's family is still holding out some hope that he will recover.

But in the meantime, they said they are considering legal action to get financial assistance to help pay for medical costs and Aulakh's eventual move to a long-term care facility.

With files from the CBC's Meera Bains