Australian man dies days after being dared to eat a gecko

Dave Dowell seen smiling in a suit and tie with his partner.
Dave Dowell and his partner of 15 years Allira before the fatal party. Source: Facebook/Allira Marie Bricknell.

Pain, grief and mystery surrounds the death of a Queensland man who died in December from a dare gone horribly wrong.

David Dowell would have turned 35 last week but he was tragically ripped away from his partner and three daughters days after he ate a gecko at a Christmas party last year.

The day after the December 1 party, Mr Dowell felt unwell but assumed it was most likely just a hangover. In the following days, his physical health deteriorated severely, to the point he was in agony.

When his family called for paramedics, his long-term partner Allira, had to beg them to take him to hospital.

Mr Dowell’s sister, Hannah, described the extreme discomfort he was in at the time, which is now believed to be the result of salmonella poisoning, possibly caused by the gecko.

“On (December 3), it was coming out both ends and he was really sick, and the moment he started throwing up and it was green, that’s when they rang the ambulance,” Mr Dowell’s sister Hannah told The Brisbane Times.

“When they got there, they (paramedics) didn’t even want to take him (to hospital). They said he just had gastro and his partner said, ‘No, you’ve got to take him; it’s not just gastro’.”

Salmonella causes patients to suffer through days of fever, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. But things took a turn for the worse during Mr Dowell’s stay in hospital.

Ten days after the Christmas party, he passed away during surgery after days of suffering from serious organ failure.

‘The heart of the family’

His family said he "basically rotted from the inside out,” the Times reported.

A GoFundMe page set up to provide financial help to the family he left behind in December, mourns Mr Dowell as “the heart of his family”.

“Dave was and always will be the love of Allira’s life, he was the heart of his family and he passing is an absolutely tragedy,” it reads.

In a Facebook post last month, Hannah posted a photo alluding to the grieving process.

“Those who think there is a time limit when grieving, have never lost a piece of their heart,” the picture says.

Dave holds a beer at a formal event with his arm around Allira.
The couple had three daughters together. Source: Facebook/Allira Marie Bricknell

While cold blooded animals like geckos can carry salmonella in their guts, family members still don’t have a definitive answer on the exact cause death. Initially they thought it was the result of infected chicken.

It wasn’t until Allira was speaking to a friend that she heard the story about the gecko.

"Oh, David ate a gecko that night I’m pretty sure," a friend mentioned to her, Hannah recalled.

"She [David's partner] told the doctor and the doctor said 'that could have been it'.”

However with conflicting accounts from the night and no clarifying details from the coroner, concrete answers remain elusive.

"There has been no evidence that he actually ate it because there was: 'Oh yeah I saw him eat it'. And then: 'No, I didn’t see him eat it',” Hannah said.

"It was a dare, so he might have intended to eat it and then thrown it away.”

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