SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A lifeguard in New Jersey is being hailed as a hero after saving a child, not from the water, but at a nearby restaurant on his lunch break.

“That was probably one of the craziest experiences of my life,” lifeguard Peter LaQuaglia said.

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The 20-year-old talked to CBS2 about a life or death situation he will never forget. He saved a 10-month-old baby who was choking to death on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights.

“It was really bad. It could have been fatal.”

Peter LaQuaglia (Credit: CBS2)

It happened last Friday.

Peter, a former All-Conference linebacker at Toms River High School North, had just left his post on the beach to go on his lunch break.

He was grabbing a slice of pizza at a restaurant on the boardwalk when he suddenly heard a woman frantically screaming, begging for help.

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He bolted out to the boardwalk where he found a little boy, who he said was choking on what appeared to be one of those loose plastic rings from a water bottle that sometimes breaks off when the cap is unscrewed.

(Credit: CBS2)

He told CBS2’s Scott Rapoport the baby was not breathing. His grandmother was in shock.

Peter immediately and reflexively used his life saving training and employed the Heimlich maneuver ever so carefully to the infant.

“You flip them over on their back and give them pats on the back until they cough up whatever they’re choking on,” LaQuaglia said.

Eventually he said he was able to dislodge the plastic ring from the baby’s mouth and the little boy started breathing again to the delight of his family.

“Probably the scariest moment of my life knowing I literally had someone’s life in my hands,” the young lifeguard said.

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The Seaside Heights Beach Patrol said the baby is fine and has made a full recovery.