Rochester owner saves choking customer with Heimlich maneuver

February 15, 2018 08:35 AM

A split second decision to act saves a Rochester man’s life.

Surveillance video shows a restaurant owner performing the Heimlich maneuver on a customer who was gasping for air, choking on a piece of salad lodged in his throat.

Advertisement – Content Continues Below

It all happened during Tuesday’s lunchtime rush at Antonetta’s Restaurant on Jay Street. The video captured on security cameras shows the restaurant’s owner, Matt Petrillo, walking by the table and quickly realizing something was wrong.

“I noticed a regular customers of ours was knocking on the table aggressively, trying to signal to me in some way…it took me a moment to process but I realized he was choking,” said Petrillo, recalling the moment he recognized the signs. “He was gasping for air. He kinda turned to let me know ‘hey can you do this’ so I walked up behind him to do CPR.”

It only took a few seconds, but felt like much longer.

“He gave me the thumbs up when he was good. But he was still trying to catch his breath so I said ‘ok, let’s go outside and get some fresh air.’ Luckily I knew what I was doing. I could see someone walking by and not knowing and having to find someone else….that could’ve been too long,” said Petrillo.

This wasn’t the first time he saved someone from choking. 

He knew what he was doing because of a sixth grade gym class nearly 20 years ago. Just days after that middle school lesson, Petrillo needed to do the Heimlich for the first time, as a classmate started choking on hard candy right before class.

“He was eating it and he just started to turn purple and choking,” recalled Petrillo. 

That year he was recognized by the Red Cross and named Wayne County Citizen of the Year. It wasn’t an experience he thought he would repeat.

“I don’t feel like a hero. I was glad to help someone, I’m glad he’s fine,” he said. 

A humble hero who didn’t even mention the life-saving act to his employees, going back to work to help customers, instead. 

“After it happened, I didn’t say anything for about 15 minutes. None of the employees knew it happened. They were walking around like a regular day. Inside my heart was beating, I’m trying to cash people out,” he recalled, saying it wasn’t until he went back and saw the surveillance video that it started to sink in.

Petrillo owns the family business his grandfather opened decades ago, along with The Meatball Truck Co.


Stephanie Robusto

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

Relay Media Amp

We no longer have Facebook comments on this site. Please visit our Facebook Page to join the conversation.