Hardbody contestant kills self

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"A contestant in the internationally popular Hands on a Hardbody contest at Patterson Nissan in Longview killed himself Thursday morning after leaving the contest on its third day.

According to police, 24-year-old Ricky Vega left the contest around 6 a.m. Thursday. He politely excused himself and walked away, a witness said. It wasn't clear whether Vega walked away during or just before an official break for contestants, most of whom were away from the contest site when Vega killed himself

Witnesses said Vega went directly to a Kmart across the street, threw a trash can through a window and quickly went into the store.

"It was the most surreal thing I've ever seen in my life," said Dru Laborde, a program director for KYKX radio and a media participant in the contest.

Police said they were called at 5:59 a.m. When they arrived, they saw Vega walking from the back of the store toward the doors. He had a shotgun in his hands, police said, and shot himself. A police spokesman said police exchanged a few words with Vega before he stepped back and shot himself. He said he wasn't sure what had been said.

Mary Flores, a cousin of Vega's wife, said Vega "had no reason to do this at all."

"Everything in his life was going good. Everything," said Flores, who was gathered with other family members outside the Kmart in central Longview.

According to Flores, Vega had promised his wife that he would win the grand prize for her, a Nissan truck. Flores said her family is large and closely knit.

"He was motivated and feeling good about everything," she said. "Everything was going good for him and her."

Vega served time in jail in 2003 after pleading guilty to assault/family violence. He lived in Tyler and worked for FedEx and Ranger Metal. Officials at both companies declined to comment.

Laborde said he had arrived at the contest at 5:30 a.m. Thursday and spoke with Vega.

"He was fine," Laborde said, adding that Vega had said he was in the contest for the long haul.

Vega had dropped out of the contest last year because of a family emergency.

Contest officials declined to comment immediately, but said the contest would be discontinued out of respect for the family. All signs of the contest, including a large tent, and a contestant tally board, were quickly removed from the dealership's lot and remaining contestants were asked not to talk to reporters.

This was the contest's 13th year. It drew international fame after a filmmaker from East Texas documented the 1995 version in a film released in 1997. Since then, the contest has been copied and modified around the world. The contest requires competitors to keep at least one hand on a pickup truck as long as possible with few breaks. It generally has lasted several days.

The last person standing wins the truck and other prizes."

I guess I won't be getting my Crazy Bread from THAT Little Ceasers anymore....

And it only get's more East Texas redneck-ified:

"Two-time contestant Kelli Mestas, 33, of Longview agreed that when she lost the contest in 1995, lack of sleep caused her to be "mentally unstable."

In 1995, just like this year, the contest started on a Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. By 1:30 a.m. Friday, Mestas said she was in a daze when she removed her hands from the truck and was disqualified from the contest. She said the loud noise from a judge's horn momentarily woke her from her disillusioned thoughts. Then, reality struck.

"I lost," she said Thursday. "It's a lot to know that you've got through that long and you just lost."

Out of anger for losing, Mestas said she slowly walked around the truck and then suddenly took off running. She said she jumped over the fence separating the McCann Street Grill from the Nissan dealership and ran almost to the Longview Mall, a few miles away. Drivers angrily honked at her."

Classic. Exactly why even though I live and grew up here, I refuse to watch this "movie".


It's all fun and games until you shoot yourself. But why refuse to watch the movie? If you don't like the idea of the contest then you should boycott the dealership that ran it, not the movie that only documented it.


thanks for the information, a horrible tragedy for sure.

i enjoyed the movie very much, and recommend it to everyone.

the movie is not about out of control materialism, it´s about normal folks in a small-town in texas that have dreams, time, and need some money.

their accents might sound funny to some (i can´t believe one questioner couldn´t understand the southern version of "pretty sun" and thought the movie character said "prairie sun") but real southerners have real accents, not made up Hollywood *beep*

they might say and do some silly things, but they also express a few human universal truths along the way.

the world´s not easy or fair. these people put on the uniform and get on the field. that being said, more supervision by the contest sponsors might have avoided a terrible tragedy.