Utah incident responder's quick thinking saves 5-year-old girl found choking

A 5-year-old girl is OK this holiday season thanks to quick thinking by a Utah transportation employee and state trooper who helped save her after a woman alerted them that the child was choking in her car.

Robert Bratton, a member of the Utah Department of Transportation Incident Management Team, and a Utah Highway Patrol trooper were wrapping up a response Wednesday evening, moving a car from a freeway to a gas station located at 14814 S. Minuteman Drive.

Then, at about 7:30 p.m., they spotted a vehicle "swerve erratically" into the parking lot of the gas station, according to UDOT officials.

"A distraught woman pulled into the parking lot and ran to her back seat — instantly, I kind of knew there was something wrong," Bratton said, in an interview provided by UDOT Thursday.

The woman opened the rear door of the vehicle where a 5-year-old girl was choking on a piece of food. That's when Bratton took the girl out of the vehicle and performed a reverse Heimlich maneuver.

"I got down on my knee, I placed her facedown on (my other) knee and I was able to start the Heimlich maneuver," he said, recalling the moment. "After about four or five of those, I was able to unlodge the obstruction."

The girl was able to start breathing again. The entire scene played out in less than a minute, captured on UHP trooper Zesiger's body camera device.

"You guys have good (timing)," the appreciative woman says, as Bratton checks on the girl immediately after her airway was cleared.

This wasn't the first time Bratton found himself in a situation like what happened Wednesday. UDOT's Incident Management Team responds to all sorts of emergencies, and Bratton was awarded a lifesaving award from the Utah Department of Public Safety last year for saving a 15-year-old's life in April 2020.

"We're so grateful Rob and trooper Zesiger were in the right place at the right time with the right skills to help save this child's life," UDOT officials wrote, in a social media post Thursday. "Please remember when you see our IMT trucks, that they are there to help you. Our IMT members work tirelessly to help make Utah roads a safer place for everyone!"