A Rio Rancho school bus driver is being called a hero for saving an 8-year old student’s life during a school bus ride.
“I’m just thankful that he was able to save him and take it into his hands where he kept my son alive,” said Christina Gurule, the mother of the child the bus driver saved.
A 7-year bus driver for Rio Rancho Public Schools, Jerry Maldonado was there at the right time with the right training Thursday as third-grade student Angelo Ortigoza started choking.
“I was just glad I was there to help Angelo,” said Maldonado, recounting his life-saving actions.
It happened at the end of the school day Thursday afternoon. Maldonado was transporting dozens of kids home from Cielo Azul Elementary School in northern Rio Rancho.
Eight-year-old Angelo was on board the bus talking to his friends when he ate a piece of hard candy as the bus arrived at its first stop in a neighborhood.
“He was eating a candy and he was sitting there with his friends and they made him laugh, and he just started choking,” said Gurule.
Christina didn’t know it was happening at the time. She was waiting for her son at the bus stop when she realized the bus was a few minutes late.
Shortly after that realization, Christina got a call from the Rio Rancho Schools transportation office who told her that her son had choked on a piece of candy while riding on the bus and was OK.
She learned the bus driver, Maldonado performed the Heimlich maneuver on Angelo, dislodging the candy.
Maldonado told KRQE News 13 it was a few alarmed students who alerted him that Angelo couldn’t breathe.
“I right away looked back and he pointed to Angelo, and Angelo was standing up,” said Maldonado.
Maldonado had just recently been retrained in techniques to help save children who are choking. He says the other kids on the bus remained calm as it happened.
“I moved Angelo to the front, and I started the procedure, the Heimlich,” said Maldonado.
Angelo’s parents thanked Maldonado in person Friday afternoon.
“He saved my son, the bus driver saved my son, he’s a hero,” said Miguel Ortigoza, Angelo’s father.
“He’s awesome, I’m just so happy, I’m so thankful for him,” said Gurule.
That caring sentiment isn’t lost on Jerry, but he says he was just doing his job.
“You know, it’s something we’ve got to do because we’re bus drivers and they’re our responsibility,” said Maldonado.
Maldonado says this is the first time he’s ever had a kid choking on the bus and had to perform the Heimlich.