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Pensacola fire marshal helps save 2 lives this summer

August 19, 2021 GMT

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — Twice this summer a fire marshal in Florida’s Panhandle has been in the right place at the right time to help save a life.

Escambia County Fire Marshal Joe Quinn sprang into action on June 22 when urban planner Christina Smith almost choked on a piece of cantaloupe as she ate lunch in the county’s office complex in Pensacola.

Quinn was having lunch at a nearby table.

“I tried to clear it with some water and it did not budge, and so I tried to cough and I mean I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t make any noises,” Smith told the Pensacola News Journal. “So no one could hear anything. So I had to get up and kind of walk over in his direction. And he instantly jumped up and performed the Heimlich.”

Quinn said it took three Heimlich attempts until she expelled the food.


“Hopefully that was the first and last time that happened, but it was the scariest thing ever,” she said. “I wasn’t getting any air. I couldn’t breathe. It was very scary.”

Fast forward to Aug. 3 when a man started having trouble breathing during a county code enforcement meeting.

Quinn said he and a retired Navy medic, who was also attending the meeting, used an automated external defibrillator to revive the man.

The man was revived, and taken to the hospital where he was treated and released several days later, the newspaper reported.

“It just worked out,” said Quinn, a former firefighter and paramedic. He said he’s not always in the building and is happy he was there and able to help both times.

“You always hope you’re going to save everybody but that’s not the case. Because not everybody’s going to be alright,” he said. “But to get two, and learn they were alright after the fact? Yeah, that was a big deal for me.”