Coach Saves Choking Student Who Tried to Swallow a Beef Stick After Peers Said It Wasn’t Possible

Derrick Hamilton has been hailed a hero after he performed the Heimlich maneuver on a student in distress while on cafeteria monitoring duty

A high school coach and custodian has drawn praise for saving the life of a student who was choking during lunchtime in the school’s cafeteria.

Derrick Hamilton, a staff member at West Shore Jr/Sr High School in Melbourne, Florida, was performing his normal cafeteria monitoring duties on April 3, Florida Today reported.

Then, as he told NBC affiliate WESH, a student suddenly approached him and said that his friend was choking.

Related: 12-Year-Old Girl Saves Twin Brother from Choking at School Cafeteria: 'It Was Just Instinct'

“That’s when I knew something was going on and I just ran to the kid and you could see he was just standing in distress,” said Hamilton. “I just acted; I just went right to him.”

Hamilton performed the Heimlich maneuver on the student, identified by Spectrum News 13 as John Mullen, who choked on a Chomps Beef Stick.

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“Everyone was like, 'No one could possibly swallow that,' and I said, 'I think I probably could,' " Mullen told the outlet. "It was a mistake."

Related: Mass. Officer Who Was Recently Re-Certified in CPR Saves Choking Baby's Life

In an email to parents that Florida Today obtained, West Shore Jr/Sr High School principal Rick Fleming wrote of Hamilton, who is the school’s bowling coach: “This heroic act was nothing short of a miracle and in the words of the EMS folks that responded shortly thereafter, it saved the life of the student.”

Fleming also said in his email that the cafeteria was crowded at the time and many students who saw the incident were shaken up. “Our counselors were available to the students… and will also be ready [this] week to serve any student with a need to talk about their thoughts or feelings as a result of this unfortunate incident,” he wrote, per Florida Today.

Hamilton told WESH that he was surprised the school allowed him to leave for home early as he originally planned to complete his work day. “I have helped kids for so long, to me it just seemed like I was doing something normal,” he said.

Related: Mom Thanks Chick-fil-A Worker for Saving Daughter’s Life After She Began Choking

Mullen described Hamilton as his guardian angel, per Spectrum News 13, and said he was planning on learning CPR and the Heimlich maneuver himself.

Hamilton will reportedly be honored by Melbourne authorities next week.

PEOPLE reached out to Hamilton and Fleming for additional comment.

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