Van Wert fire captain saves toddler choking on chicken in Boardman

By kalea hall


Last Tuesday was fire Capt. Craig King’s best day on the job, and he wasn’t even working.

The captain, from Van Wert Fire Department, received recognition from Boardman Township for his — by chance — life-saving efforts.

But the real reward is knowing a 4-year-old girl is still alive after choking on a chicken nugget.

“Her eyes were wide and her mouth was purple,” King said. “I have never saved a choking child. I honestly thought we were going to lose her.”

King was in town Tuesday for a fire-officer class when a series of events led to his saving the girl Tuesday afternoon.

He has since been presented with a proclamation from the township for his heroic efforts.

This is the 26th year King has been in the fire service. Outside of his position as the captain in Van Wert, he also is the volunteer fire chief for his hometown, Middle Point, Ohio. King also is a certified paramedic.

“It’s in my blood,” King said of the fire service.

Helping people is the best part of the job, and last week he was in the right place at the right time to save the little girl. He could have gone to a closer location for the class, but he had never been on the other side of the state, so he decided to check out Boardman.

“It was divine intervention,” Craig said.

When the class let out for a lunch break Tuesday, King decided to head to Chick-fil-A with a few of the other firefighters.

Afterward he decided to head back to his hotel to rest.

When he left, he realized he forgot his cellphone in his hotel room and went back for it. On his way back to class for the second time, he noticed commotion in the vehicle in front of him while waiting for the light to turn green.

The father of the little girl jumped out of the vehicle in front of him, and then so did the mother.

“Dad pulled the little girl out and she was pretty blue,” King said.

When he noticed what was happening, he immediately got out and told the parents he was a paramedic and could help and tried to clear her airway.

“Two more attempts and [the nugget] finally came out,” King said. “My forgetfulness saved a life.”

Austintown Fire Department also pulled up to the incident by chance. Austintown firefighter Dave Schirtzer actually saw the chicken nugget come free from the girl’s airway.

“[You] always have to be ready to jump into some kind of situation,” King said.

Boardman Fire Chief George Brown said the call for the little girl was the third call that came in that afternoon, and it would have taken up to eight minutes to get out and help the girl.

“I had to deliver my own child,” King said. “This [incident] kind of tops that.”

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