Through the static of a two-way radio, Red Top Middle School administrators heard four sobering words during lunch Tuesday, Dec. 3.

“Hurry, he’s turning blue.”

Running to the cafeteria, they found Bartow County School Resource Officer Duane Smith already performing the Heimlich maneuver on 11-year-old Ethan Hamrick in an attempt to dislodge a water bottle cap that was blocking his airway, said school system spokesperson Alisha Evans.

His work helped save the boy.

“I knew if I thrust him on the back, there was a possibility that the cap could have moved further down and not up,” Smith said.

“So, I performed about 14 abdominal thrusts and I believe that turned the cap sideways, allowing him to breathe a little.”

Head school nurse Annette Lively was also on the scene performing lifesaving measures on the boy while an ambulance was being called, Evans said.

Working together, the cap became dislodged and Ethan was treated and released from a local hospital.

Red Top Middle School paraprofessional Walt Pittman said, “If he [Smith] hadn’t done it that way, at that time, it would have been a horrible situation.”

In an email to Superintendent Phillip Page, Bartow County Campus Police Chief Randall Burch recommended an award for Smith’s actions.

“Officer Smith, as most police officers, does not cater to attention,” Burch said. “However, sometimes, in the performance of one’s duty, it requires attention.”

Page and Chief Leadership and Learning Officer Clint Terza personally commended Smith and another hero, Rudra Parmar.

The lunchroom incident began after sixth-grader Rudra was eating lunch and laughing with Ethan, Evans said.

When Ethan started choking and gasping for air, Rudra ran to a teacher and Smith.

As humble as Smith was, Rudra told his parents about the incident but never mentioned his heroic actions.

So, administrators made a house call to inform them that “the Bartow County School System is proud of their intelligent, intuitive son.”

The emotional day wrapped up with an even more emotional reunion between the Hamrick family and Smith.

At that time, a quick cell phone photo was snapped of Ethan and Smith, even though Smith will never need a photograph to relive those moments on Dec. 3.

“I’m just glad Ethan will recover and be back in class (today),” said a teary-eyed Smith. “I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day, but I’m glad I was in the right place at the right time.”


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