Blair River, Heart Attack Grill Spokesman, Dead at 29 from the Flu

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Luci Scott / AP

There is something eerie about taking a job as the spokesman for a restaurant called Heart Attack Grill, which specializes in thick hamburgers, milkshakes and fries.

But that never bothered 575-pound Blair River, who spent the past year as the restaurant’s poster boy. While River’s weight was certainly viewed as a bonus to the restaurant’s founders who hired him, they said they would have just stuck him in a fat suit had he been trimmer. River was featured in several satirical commercials, highlighting the grill’s glorification of obesity.

(More on TIME.com: Watch a TIME reporter test high-calorie fast food bombs.)

At just 29-year-old, River passed away Tuesday, after contracting pneumonia while sick with the flu. Restaurant founder Jon Basso said, “Cynical people might think this [River's death] is funny, but people who knew him are crying their eyes out. There is a lot of mourning going on around here. You couldn’t have found a better person.”

Basso described River as the creative genius behind several of the restaurant’s promotions. He had been planning a “Heart Attack Grill: The Musical.” See one of his spot’s on the Heart Attack Grill Diet Program above.

(More on TIME.com: See the nation’s fast food capital.)

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