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Bartow County SRO saves Red Top Middle School students life performing Heimlich maneuver

Through the static of a two-way radio, Red Top Middle School administrators heard four life-altering words during lunch Tuesday afternoon, “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. “I knew if I thrust him on the back, there was a possibility that the cap could have moved further down and not up,” says Officer Smith. “So, I performed about 14 abdominal thrusts and I believe that turned the cap sideways, allowing him to breathe a little.” Head Nurse Annette Lively was also on-scene performing life-saving measures on Ethan while an ambulance was being called. Working together, the cap became dislodged, and Ethan was treated and released from a local hospital. “If he [Officer Smith] hadn’t done it that way, at that time, it would have been a horrible situation,” says Red Top Middle School Paraprofessional Walt Pittman. In an email to Bartow County School System Superintendent Phillip Page, Bartow County Campus Police Chief Randall Burch recommended a life-saving award for Officer Smith’s actions.

“Officer Smith, as most police officers, does not cater to attention,” says Chief Burch. “However, sometimes, in the performance of one’s duty, it requires attention.” Superintendent Page and Chief Leadership and Learning Officer Clint Terza personally commended Officer Smith and another pint-sized hero, Rudra Parmar. Rudra was eating lunch and laughing with Ethan when the incident happened. The quick-thinking sixth-grader ran to a teacher and Officer Smith when Ethan started choking and gasping for air. Rudra, as humble as Officer Smith, went home that night to tell 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 Officer Smith. At that time, a quick cell phone picture was snapped of Ethan and Officer Smith, even though Officer Smith will never need a photograph to relive those moments on Dec. 3, 2019.

“I’m just glad Ethan will recover and be back in class Thursday,” says a teary-eyed Officer 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.”