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Video: TSA agent saves choking baby

Passengers go through security at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Ellen M. Banner/Seattle Times/TNS)
December 27, 2021

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer saved a two-month-old infant’s life two days before Christmas after the infant stopped breathing while passing through security at Newark Liberty International Airport.

According to a Dec. 23 TSA press release, officer Cecilia Morales heard a young mother screaming for help after she noticed her young son wasn’t breathing and immediately jumped into action.

A trained emergency medical technician with at least a decade of experience, Morales shouted instructions to the mother “but she was so nervous and I knew if I didn’t get over there, it wasn’t going to be a good outcome. I jumped over the checkpoint conveyor belt rollers and she gave me the baby. I performed the infant Heimlich maneuver on him.”

WPRI 12 shared surveillance footage of the intense moment on Twitter.

Morales carefully held the infant, placing him face down on her arm and gently patted him on the back. At first, there was no response, but after a second attempt, the baby started breathing.

The TSA agent said the “mother was too nervous and in shock to hold her son, so I carried the infant through the walk-through metal detector” and waited for pediatric EMT to arrive and administer oxygen to the struggling infant.

A Newark resident, Morales just joined the TSA in late October. Morales said she had performed the Heimlich maneuver on adults and children as an EMT, but never on an infant.

“Two months on the job and she’s literally a life-saver,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “Officer Morales’s quick reaction and actions helped ensure that this family will have a happy holiday season. Her actions were inspiring.”

“I saw the video afterward,” Morales said. “It was the first time I’ve ever seen myself in action, saving a life. It was mind-blowing to watch. I felt that my training and experience just took over.”

“If Officer Morales did not utilize her critical thinking, knowledge and quick response, perhaps we could have had a terrible outcome,” said TSA Manager Ayrana Frazier. “In the moment Officer Morales was selfless, and her priority was to save a life. We are proud to call her one of our own.”

In another incident over the holiday weekend, a woman slapped a fellow passenger and spit on him during an outburst while on a flight from Tampa to Atlanta.