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Video captures Boston bartender saving choking customer with Heimlich maneuver

Boston bartender saves choking customer with Heimlich maneuver
Bartender Oscar Simoza jumped over the bar to aid a choking customer with Heimlich maneuver at Boston's Silvertone Grill.

A 34-year-old bartender at Silvertone Bar and Grill near Downtown Crossing leapt into action to save a man who was choking on steak tips Thursday night — an incident that was caught on the bar’s surveillance camera.

Oscar Simoza was working behind the bar at 69 Bromfield St. when he said a man sitting in front of him started grabbing his friend by the shoulder as his face grew red around 6:30 p.m. At first, Simoza said he thought the man was just laughing, but quickly realized that he was actually choking.

“Next thing I know, like maybe five seconds go by, and I’m behind him just performing the Heimlich maneuver,” Simoza said in a phone conversation with the Globe on Friday night.


Simoza said he had never performed the Heimlich maneuver before, but said he knew how from watching “Baywatch” in the 1990’s, and was reminded of it when watching the recent movie.

“For some reason I remember it from that,” said Simoza, who has worked at the bar for about five years.

A video of the incident shows Simoza behind the bar when a woman sitting in front of him starts hitting the back of the man she’s sitting next to. Simoza can be seen running to the end of the bar, flipping open the counter top entrance, and jumping over something in order to get to the choking man. He grabs the man from behind and performs the Heimlich maneuver for a few seconds until the man pulls the food from his mouth.

“I think I might have broke one of his ribs, or bruised it,” Simoza said. “But he was fine.”

Simoza said he was happy to know he would react that way in an emergency, even though he said he had no control over the situation.


“As cheesy as it sounds, my legs and my body just reacted,” Simoza said.

After he got back behind the bar, Simoza said the man shook his hand and thanked him for saving his life.

“That’s probably the best tip I ever had in my life,” Simoza said. “I’m not ever going to forget that.”

Those performing the Heimlich maneuver on an adult or child should first hit the struggling person on the back five times before performing five abdominal thrusts, according to the American Red Cross. These steps should continue until the object is forced out, the victim can cough it up, or if they are conscious.

If the victim is unconscious they should be carefully lowered to the ground before care is provided, according to the American Red Cross. People should also call 911.

Adam Sennott can be reached at