Off-duty Steamboat Springs firefighters use Heimlich maneuver to save a fellow diner |

Off-duty Steamboat Springs firefighters use Heimlich maneuver to save a fellow diner

Scott Franz

— An 80-year-old woman who was choking at Cafe Diva Sunday night was lucky to be dining near two off-duty firefighters, who immediately took action to save her life.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighter Paul Gilbertson noticed the woman was choking and went to her table to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

The woman became unconscious, and firefighter Tony DeRisio also came over to help.

According to Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, the men continued Heimlich maneuvers until the food was dislodged from the woman’s throat and she was able to breathe again.

The woman regained consciousness and was taken to the hospital in good condition.

The firefighters were at the restaurant with their wives for date night.

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On Monday, Gilbertson encouraged community members to take a short amount of time to learn how to do what he was able to do.

“The Heimlich is something anybody can do with a basic two-hour course,” Gilbertson said. “We were happy to be there to help out.”

Steamboat Fire Chief Mel Stewart said he learned of the heroics of his firefighters when he started work at 5 a.m. Monday morning.

“That just made my day,” he said. “We have emergencies every day when we’re at work, but to see that these guys were at the right place at the right time with their wives, and for them to jump into action like that, that’s just outstanding.”

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue on Dec. 16 will host a free class to teach community members the basics of CPR.

The class will also cover how to help someone who is choking or showing signs of a heart attack or a stroke.

The class will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the community center.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10