Chief, para thanked for life-saving actions

Superintendent Will Hartley, Neisha Taylor, Velesa Thomas, Chief Ben Carter and Principal Cassie Melvin.


Telegraph Editor

Velesa Thomas, a paraprofessional at Southside Elementary School, is breathing with even more gratitude these days.  

Thomas was saved from choking thanks to the intervention of fellow paraprofessional Neisha Taylor and Ben Carter, chief of Bradford County Fire Rescue.

Thomas related the experience in a letter to Principal Cassie Melvin, which Melvin read to the school board Monday night.

Thomas and Taylor were seated in a restaurant with a third friend having lunch on Taylor’s birthday. Suddenly Thomas was struggling to breathe with food lodged in her throat.

“I couldn’t walk, cough or anything. Neisha looked at me and yelled, “Can’t breathe?” and I shook my head no, grabbing my throat.”

Taylor stood Thomas up to try and open her airway and began performing the Heimlich maneuver.

“She was calm and talked to me the entire time. I was so scared and I definitely felt that I was going to leave this world,” Thomas said.

The steak was lodged in her throat and wouldn’t budge.

Staff alerted Carter, who was also in the restaurant having lunch. Taylor didn’t want to give up, but Carter convinced her to let him try. Within moments, Thomas could breathe again.

“I can’t even explain to you how I felt. There are no words to explain it. I’m so very grateful to Neisha and Ben for saving my life. I will never be able to repay them for their act of heroism,” she said, calling for them to be recognized in some way.

That recognition came before the school board Aug. 22. Both were thanked and given plaques.