Seaside Heights: Lifeguard saves life of choking baby on boardwalk

Source: Asbury Park Press

When Seaside Heights lifeguard Peter LaQuaglia reported for work on the morning of June 7, he recalled a sense of apprehension in the air. During roll call, Seaside Heights Beach Patrol captain Rob Connor warned his mostly college-aged crew that it felt like one of those days when there was a particular need “to be ready for anything” advised them to brush up on their first aid protocols and remain vigilant.

At about noon, LaQuaglia joined a buddy for lunch at Spicy Cantina on the Boardwalk. Ten minutes later, a woman started screaming on the Boardwalk between Sumner and Webster avenues in front of the Midway Steak House. LaQuaglia literally dropped his pizza and raced over to the scene.

A 10-month-old boy was choking on what appeared to be one of those loose plastic rings that sometimes remain around the nozzle of an open water bottle after breaking off from an unscrewed cap. Immediately, he could see the baby was not breathing. Moreover, the child was beginning to fade into unconsciousness.

Over the five years that LaQuaglia, 20, of Toms River, has been a lifeguard for Seaside Heights, the 5’11, 205-pound college linebacker has rescued about 20 lives, but those incidents involved pulling a panicked bather out of the ocean. Although trained and certified in American Red Cross first aid care — which includes CPR and how to administer the Heimlich maneuver — LaQuaglia never actually had to apply those skills in a real life and death situation before. “I was pretty scared when it was happening,” LaQuaglia said.

“I grabbed the baby, I flipped him over on my knee, with his head down, and then patted him on the back — have to give a pretty good hit without causing any additional harm.” As the child began to cough up the bit of plastic, LaQuaglia used his fingers to probe the baby’s mouth for any other obstructions — and found none.

As police officers and EMS personnel descended upon the scene, LaQuaglia disappeared into the crowd and went back to work. LaQuaglia, who recounted the experience to a reporter in a soft-spoken delivery, did not desire any attention. It was only after his superiors at the Seaside Heights Beach Patrol posted on Instagram did anyone outside his fellow lifeguards learn that he had saved a child’s life:

“The 10-month-old was checked over by the TriBoro first aid and he made a full recovery. The former 1st team All-Shore linebacker for the Mariners of Toms River North and 5th year guard was so cool under pressure. SHBP is so proud of Pete!”

For the past two years, LaQuaglia has been studying kinesiology (study of human or non-human body movement) and playing football for McDaniel College in Maryland. In the fall, he plans to transfer to the University of Central Florida to begin his junior year.

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