"My Life Flashed Before my Eyes"-- Diner Saved by Off-Duty FDNY Recounts Ordeal

SILive - February 13, 2018

by Kyle Lawson

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- It started with a cough. Then the room went dark.

Juan Camacho, 52, of Great Kills, was out to dinner Friday with his wife, Carolyn, at Da Noi in Fort Wadsworth when piece of lamb became lodged in his throat.

"I started to tense up ... everything was starting to go just a little bit black," said Camacho. "My life flashed before my eyes for just a second."

His wife tried to slap him on the back, as members of the wait staff began to gather around their table. Then, he felt two arms around his mid section and pressure on his sternum. The food was dislodged and the nightmare was over.

It just so happened, off-duty firefighter Stephen Cresci, 33, of Fort Wadsworth, was sitting behind the couple eating dinner with his wife.

"I think at first everyone thought (Camacho) was just coughing heavily, but my husband asked him if he was choking and he didn't respond," Jennifer Cresci told the Advance on Monday.

Stephen, a probationary firefighter at Engine 163 in Westerleigh, was back to work Monday and unavailable to speak. But according to witnesses, his actions pretty much said it all.

Once the panic ended, Cresci shook Camacho's hand and calmly returned to his table to finish dessert with his wife, who is eight months pregnant.

"Once the guy said he could breath again, there was a round of applause," said Ilir Rugova, a waiter who served Camacho and his wife that night. "The whole restaurant was clapping."