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Gray, a western Bartholomew County resident, holds some of the certification cards he has received through Boy Scouts and his work as a life guard at the Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park. PHOTO BY JOE HARPRING
Josh Gray was strolling among food booths Saturday at the Ethnic Expo, enjoying the festival’s atmosphere, when he sensed something was wrong.
“I heard someone coughing, so I turned to see what was going on,” the 16-year-old said Monday, recalling the incident.
A man — with a half-eaten kebab in one hand and the other hand clutched to his chest — was struggling to breathe as his wife and young daughter looked on helplessly.
Gray, who had gone through American Red Cross training in lifesaving techniques plus Boy Scout training in first aid, knew he needed to help this festival-goer, who appeared to be in his early 40s.
The Josh Gray File
Junior at Columbus Signature Academy
Hopes to major in mechanical engineering when he goes to college in two years.
Active in Boy Scouts since the age of 12.
About to start an Eagle Scout project
remaking windmill blades that were
damaged in a storm.
What: American Red Cross CPR classes
When: Oct. 23 and Oct. 25
Where: American Red Cross office, 931 Repp Drive, Columbus
To register: Call 800-733-2767 and choose Option 3, health and safety classes; go to https://classes.redcross.org
Tip: You must sign up in advance online or by phone to attend.
How the Heimlich works
1 Position yourself behind the choking victim.
2 Put your arms around the person’s waist, making a fist with one hand with thumb positioned toward the belly button.
3 Place your other hand over the fist and make five upward thrusts into the person’s abdomen.
4 Repeat until the obstruction is coughed out.
SOURCE: American Red Cross.
“I did the Heimlich maneuver, and (a piece of meat) popped out of his mouth,” Gray recalled.
Bystanders said the episode was over in less than 20 seconds.
“After he caught his breath, we shook hands, and he just told me, ‘Thank you so much,’” Gray said.
Then, victim, rescuer and onlookers went their separate ways without exchanging names.
The Columbus Signature Academy junior doesn’t see himself as a hero and doesn’t want a fuss made over his quick thinking.
Friends say they aren’t surprised that Gray, a former lifeguard at Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park, leaped to the choking victim’s aid.
“One minute, Josh was right there holding my hand, and the next thing I know he was performing the Heimlich on the man,” said 17-year-old Mara Krempel, Gray’s girlfriend who attended the expo with him and other family members.
Martha Krempel, Mara’s mother, said dozens of other people near the scene didn’t have time to react, or they didn’t know what to do.
“Josh must have been placed there by an angel. All of those other people were nearby, but Josh was the one who handled it smoothly and confidently,” Martha Krempel said. “It was almost comforting to watch him. He wouldn’t leave the scene until he was sure the man was OK.”
Friends and family say Gray is perceptive, analytical and mature for his age — all qualities that should serve him well as he plans to major in mechanical engineering after graduating from Columbus Signature Academy in 2014.
“He’s smart, caring and very observant, the classical engineer,” said Mara Krempel, who met Josh last year through their participation in high school track and field.
The young man’s mother, April Gray, who works at Cummins as a reliability engineer, said she’s proud of her son. He’s active in the Boy Scouts and works with younger participants in Boy Scout Troop 550, which meets at First United Methodist Church in Columbus. He’s close to becoming an Eagle Scout.
“I’ve never seen him in a bad mood,” Scoutmaster Michele Seim said. “If something needs doing, he’s the first to step up and get it done.”
Friends say the high school junior is a big help to his grandparents, Mike and Donna Mount, who live on South Sprague Road. His grandfather has lung cancer and isn’t fully able to maintain his property or tend to the Christmas tree farm the family runs as peak sales season approaches. Gray helps out there after school.
“Josh goes over, fixes a tractor, keeps up the equipment; he’s always going back and forth,” his mother said.
Gray also has acted as a mentor in a 4-H program that introduces Bartholomew County elementary school children to the world of biotech and science.
Mara Krempel said her boyfriend took Saturday afternoon’s incident in stride, describing it as “no big thing.”
But back home, after the expo, she pulled him aside to tell him that family members and friends wouldn’t forget how he kept his cool and saved a man’s life.
“I definitely feel like he was a hero,” the teenager said.
Somewhere, a man in his early 40s who is breathing a lot easier likely feels the same.
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