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West Linn eatery manager saves choking customer before first responders can arrive

Erik Fernandez, a manager at Five Guys in West Linn, went to work Oct. 2 just like any other day.

On his way home that afternoon, he couldn't help but marvel at the fact that he had just saved a life.PMG PHOTO: HOLLY BARTHOLOMEW - Erik Fernandez, a manager at West Linns Five Guys saved a choking customer at the restaurant Oct. 2.

Fernandez, who has lived in West Linn for a couple years, said it was nearing the end of his shift around 3 p.m. that day when a customer came to the counter and said, "Hey, somebody's choking over there."

After telling a cashier to call 911, Fernandez stepped around the corner to find a man in his 50s or 60s choking on food and his wife and pregnant daughter in a panic but trying to help.

"(His wife) tried to help him but she wasn't strong enough. The daughter was there and she was 7 or 8 months pregnant," Fernandez said.

Fernandez wrapped the man in a bear hug and hit him on the chest twice."He started breathing and said, 'OK I'm fine,'" Fernandez said.

It happened so fast, the cashier was still on the phone with 911 and told the operator they didn't need assistance anymore.

"Ten minutes later he came to me and said, 'Thank you for saving my life,' and left," Fernandez said.

He said he didn't get to learn the man's name or if he lives in West Linn.

Bill Groaner, a resident of the Willamette area thought Fernandez deserved recognition for his heroics.

"Everyone agrees he saved that man's life," Groaner said.

Fernandez said he's never had to save a choking person before, nor had he been taught how to. He just acted on instinct and did what he hopes someone would do for him, he said.

The feeling you get when you save a life is indescribable, Fernandez said.

"It was amazing. Honestly, I cried."

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