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Teen hero honored by fire department

PROSPECT MOUNTAIN HIGH SCHOOL student Tyler Sullivan (center) received a certificate of appreciation from Alton Fire Chief Scott Williams (right) last week for saving friend and classmate Ethan Henderson (left) from choking on a piece of candy during a recent Math class. Brendan Berube. (click for larger version)
May 12, 2010
ALTON — A local teen who recently saved a friend from choking on a piece of candy during class received a special commendation from Alton's Fire Department last week.

During a brief ceremony at Prospect Mountain High School on May 4, sophomore Tyler Sullivan was presented by Fire Chief Scott Williams with a certificate of appreciation for the calmness, courage and quick thinking he displayed in saving the life of close friend and classmate Ethan Henderson.

Henderson was sucking on a fireball (a popular form of spicy hard candy) while sitting in a Math class on April 7 when the piece of candy became caught in the back of his throat, causing him to choke.

When the efforts of that day's substitute teacher to perform the Heimlich maneuver on Henderson proved unsuccessful, Sullivan (who had taken a health course at Prospect Mountain earlier in the year through which he learned the Heimlich maneuver and CPR) jumped in and managed to dislodge the fireball.

"I got in there and just popped it right out," the bashful Sullivan said, adding that his thoughts during the incident were focused on getting the job done.

"It was pretty serious," he said. "I had to do it."

Henderson, who has known Sullivan since the two were in middle school, said there were "a lot of things" going through his mind during the incident, and thanked Sullivan for saving him.

Williams was so impressed with Sullivan's ability to keep a "cool head" — a character trait that he felt was "very important" in emergency situations — that he invited the young hero to apply for the fire department's Explorer program.

"He got the job done," Williams said. "The biggest thing is managing the adrenaline, which is 99 percent of it."

Sullivan thought the Explorer program sounded "cool," but wanted more time to think the idea over.

Principal James Fitzpatrick said he was pleased to see Sullivan apply what he had learned in teacher Mark Anthony's Health class (a graduation requirement that he said most students take during their freshman or sophomore year) to a real emergency situation.

The fact that Sullivan had the "audacity and the ability" to save another student's life, he said, is "mind-blowing."

To have a student be able to apply knowledge they've gained in the classroom to a real-life situation is "what learning is all about," he added.

Sullivan's father, Michael, who attended the recognition ceremony along with his wife and Sullivan's grandmother, said he appreciated the high school's willingness to offer students a chance to learn life-saving techniques like the Heimlich maneuver or CPR.

"I think it's great that [Tyler] was able to take something he learned in school and be able to help out," he said, adding that if it weren't for Anthony's class, Tyler might never have been exposed to the Heimlich maneuver or taken a CPR certification course.

"I'm very proud," he said. "He's a very good kid."

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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Varney Smith
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