ASSATEAGUE – The Maryland Park Service this week presented two Assateague State Park rangers with Valor Awards in recognition of their efforts to save the life of a co-worker during a choking incident in May.
For Assateague State Park seasonal maintenance employee Upshure Coard, May 19 started out as any other busy day as he went about his duties preparing the park for the coming season. What Coard didn’t know at the time was he would need the assistance of Park Rangers Mike Riley and J.C. Barbely to likely save his life a short time later.
Around noon, Coard joined several fellow employees and park staff in the lunchroom, just as they did almost every day. While eating a sandwich, Coard began to choke and tried to cough, but was unable to dislodge the piece of food blocking his airway. Fortunately for Coard, Park Manager and trained first responder Mike Riley recognized his distress and immediately came to his aid.
“It all happened so fast,” said Riley this week of the near-tragic day. “I saw him start to cough and choke, and just as I asked him what was wrong, that’s when I realized that he was going to pass out.”
Riley caught Coard just as he began to pass out and fall to the floor. Standing just behind Riley was Assistant Park Manager and EMT-1 Ranger J.C. Barbely, who sprang into action and delivered several abdominal thrusts until the food particle became dislodged and Coard began breathing again.
Coard, who was shaken by the choking but otherwise unharmed, expressed his gratitude this week to the two park rangers for their heroic actions that day.
“I sure am glad they were there,” he said.
The Maryland Park Service also expressed its gratitude to Riley and Barbely this week, presenting them with Valor Awards for their quick efforts to possibly save the life of their co-worker.
Maryland Park Service rangers are trained as first responders with a 40-hour training course and yearly in-service training and practice administered through the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS).
“Maryland Park Service Rangers are trained as first responders to handle situations like these,” said MPS Superintendent Nita Settina. “I am proud that our talented and dedicated park service staff is alert and ready to take action in dangerous circumstances to protect both their fellow employees and the millions of visitors to our state parks.”