Central Texas mother praises officer, warns parents after son nearly dies choking on donut

A West ISD police officer is being hailed a hero for saving a student, Jonah Montoya, who...
A West ISD police officer is being hailed a hero for saving a student, Jonah Montoya, who started choking on a donut in the school drop off line.(Photo by Rissa Shaw)
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 10:51 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A police officer at a local school district is being hailed a hero for saving a student who started choking in the school drop off line.

Brian Couch, a police officer with at the West Independent School District Police Dept., is being credited with saving the live of Jonah Montoya, 7, after administering the Heimlich Maneuver.

Around 7:45 a.m. on April 4, the first-grader was choking on a donut as his mom was dropping him off for class at West Elementary School.

“I wish I would have gave my children more time that morning to eat at home or not get donuts on the way,” said Amber Jupe Montoya.

Montoya says she was running late.

“I know my children felt rushed, I felt rushed, I felt like I was rushing them,” said Montoya. “So I should have given them more time, or even if they were going to be late, to let them finish in the car.”

She describes what happened when she and her three children, Jonah, his twin Noah and older sister Gianna, 9, pulled up in the drop off line.

“We were pulling up as staff started going in at the 7:45 mark, normally staff will open the doors and get them out, but due to them already going into school, Gianna and Noah exited the vehicle--Jonah was not exiting, I guess he was still eating, so I go and open his door and he takes off to the grassy area and doubled over,” said Montoya. “I knew something was wrong.”

Jonah says he was eating “big bites”.

“Gianna said ‘hurry mom hurry,’ and she did, and then I choked on the donut, I was running and I had really big bites and I choked on it,” said Jonah. “(it felt like) I was almost about to die.”

Montoya says he did almost die, and had bodily reactions including incontinence.

“I started looking for an obstruction in the airway, I started doing the Heimlich, and it was a minute, a minute and a half of me trying to do that,” said Montoya. “It had been along while.”

She says all staff were inside except for Couch who came over from the crosswalk when he saw she was in distress.

“I noticed she was hovering over her child, she said her child was choking,” said Couch. “His body was kind of in a limp stage, he wasn’t breathing.”

He took Jonah and started doing the Heimlich Maneuver.

“The officer came and did it (the maneuver) I think once or twice, and the food flew out,” said Montoya.

The donut fell onto his shoe, he says, and it wasn’t a small piece.

“It was like half a donut, probably 2.5 inches long, blocking his whole airway,” said Couch. “I don’t think I had time to panic to be honest, I just focused on ‘hey, I have something to do that needs to be done for the child’s safety.’”

Child safety is key for Montoya, who is a stay-at-home mom.

She’s taken two CPR classes before.

“That was so disheartening knowing that I tried to save his life...and I wasn’t successful,” said Montoya. “I went to all these classes to learn how, and I wasn’t doing it right.”

She says her goal now is to spread awareness to other parents to be even more prepared for the unexpected.

“Go to classes, get CPR certified,” said Montoya. “It can happen to anyone, anywhere.”

Jonah’s advice? “Don’t eat big bites!”

Montoya says Couch’s quick actions saved her son’s life.

“Whenever I said ‘my son is choking, help, help,’ he immediately went into action, he didn’t think ‘oh well she may be exaggerating, she may not know what she’s talking about,’” said Montoya. “I am forever grateful, from my heart...he saved his life.”

Couch says he was just in the right place at the right time.

“He’s my hero,” said Jonah.

The West ISD School Board gave Couch an life-saving award Wednesday, which was presented by Jonah.

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