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Juneau TSA officer performs Heimlich on choking passenger

Monday, September 16, 2019
JNU AFSDG Dave McDermont and LTSO Brenda Irizarry

Juneau International Airport (JNU) Lead Transportation Security Officer Brenda Irizarry jumped into action to come to the aid of a passenger in distress.

A passenger came to the checkpoint from the departure lounge and told supervisor Jessie Ashton that a woman was choking. Ashton signaled to Irizarry for assistance, and Irizarry immediately rushed to perform the Heimlich Maneuver while Ashton called emergency services.

Irizarry was able to successfully dislodge a grape from the passenger, who has special needs. Thanks to Irizarry’s quick action, the passenger is safe and was able to continue her journey with her family.

Alaska Assistant Federal Security Director (AFSD) Dave McDermott said, “As Assistant Federal Security Director, I believe words are simply insufficient to Lead Transportation Security Officer Brenda Irizarry describe the overwhelming sense of gratitude, relief, and pride upon receiving the news of Ashton’s leadership and Irizarry’s heroic actions. I am beginning my fourth year as the AFSD for JNU and the Alaska Remote Ops Team. In this short period of time, I’ve had the privilege of working shoulder to shoulder with many heroes who have gone far beyond the call of duty to assist the public during a critical time of need. I am extremely proud of Irizarry’s life-saving actions and Ashton’s leadership by keeping her cool in the face of a medical emergency; your actions are a testament to TSA and all of Team Alaska.”

The following is a letter posted by the passenger’s father:

“Brenda’s quick action saved [my daughter] from certain hospitalization while waiting at Alaska Airlines. [My daughter] had swallowed a large grape and was choking; another waiting passenger ran to TSA for help. Brenda, after several attempts using the Heimlich Maneuver, got the grape to pop out to the floor of the terminal. God bless you Brenda, thank you.”