MELBOURNE, Fla. — Derrick Hamilton was the right man for the job — and was in the right place at the right time — when a West Shore Jr./Sr. student started to choke during lunch.

A high school custodian and coach, he said his instincts and experience kicked in when a student ran up to him on April 3 and frantically told him another student was choking.

What You Need To Know

  • On April 3, West Shore Jr./Sr. custodian and coach Derrick Hamilton came to a choking student's aid 

  •  Hamilton said he used the Heimlich maneuver to clear out the obstruction in sophomore John Mullen's throat

  • To thank him for his quick thinking, the Melbourne Police Department will be giving Hamilton a lifesaving award at the school next Tuesday

“I knew I had to do something,” Hamilton said, tearing up.

He sprang into action and performed the Heimlich maneuver on sophomore John Mullen, who was choking on a Chomps Beef Stick.

Hamilton said seconds seemed like minutes while he waited for Mullen to recover, which he ultimately did.

The student said getting himself into a life-threatening situation was a bad idea.

“Everyone was like, 'No one could possibly swallow that,' and I said, 'I think I  probably could,'" he said. "When you are a kid, you tend to believe in yourself. It was a mistake."

Mullen now calls Hamilton his guardian angel, and the pair said now they can step back and laugh a little about it.

Mullen also said that because of this experience, he is going to learn how to do the Heimlich, and CPR, too.

Members of the Melbourne Police Department will be giving Hamilton a lifesaving award at the school next Tuesday.

Experts say more than 100,000 people have been saved by the Heimlich maneuver since it was first invented 50 years ago, in 1974.