WESTWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It’s a lucky start to the new year for a man who nearly choked to death at a diner in Bergen County.
The terrifying ordeal happened at the Westwood Diner Pancake House on New Year’s Day. Surveillance video from inside the eatery shows the man’s wife get up to help him as he starts to choke on a sandwich.
Just a few tables away, off-duty New Jersey State Police Major Michael Rinaldi happened to be eating with his family.
“I looked up and saw some commotion,” Rinaldi said. “I picked him up off the seat and started the Heimlich maneuver.”
The surveillance video shows Rinaldi in the middle between other customers trying to help the man. Meanwhile, Westwood Police officers Stephanie Laurent and Gregory Dorfman were only one mile from the diner and quickly responded.
Laurent and Dorfman took over compressions as the patron’s face was turning blue.
“Went from behind, lifted him off the ground, and gave some pretty hard abdominal thrusts to his stomach and was able to dislodge the food and get him breathing again,” Dorfman said.
The man had been choking on a roast beef sandwich, and started breathing again once officers administered oxygen.
“I’m just trying to get the oxygen ready as quickly as possible because at the time, he wasn’t speaking,” Laurent said.
He was then rushed to the hospital, which luckily was right across the street. It capped an incredible day for so many people who pitched in to save his life, no more so than for Officer Laurent who graduated from the police academy just three weeks before putting her training to the test.
“That’s why I wanted to become a police officer,” she said. “I wanted to be of service and have a purposeful career, and that was a great example and a great way to start my career.”