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Copter Crew Saves Baby

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- The Huntington Beach police helicopter crew saved the life of a 1-year-old boy who was choking Friday morning after landing on the street in front of the boy's house.

While emergency response crews were caught up in heavy traffic caused by road construction on Beach Boulevard, the helicopter crew heard the call and landed in front of the boy's home in the 18300 block of Springtime Lane.

When pilot Rick McNaughton and observer R.J. Garwood arrived, the boy had already turned blue from oxygen deprivation, police said.

Garwood quickly dislodged an object from the boy's throat, restoring his airway, Lt. Irwin Feuerstein said.

"They are the heroes of the day around here," said neighbor Brian Verrall, who was home at the time. "They were like angels coming out of the sky to save the kid."

The Huntington Beach FireDepartment took the boy to Huntington Beach Hospital, where he is doing fine, Feuerstein said.

The boy's mother called 911 at 11:45 a.m. to report that her son was choking. A police dispatcher tried to give the mother first-aid instructions, but she was hysterical and struggling to follow them, Feuerstein said.

McNaughton and Garwood were on patrol when they heard over the radio that there were no patrol cars in the area, and the FireDepartment was still two or three minutes away.

"When dispatch said the baby was turning blue, we realized that it wasn't just choking," Garwood said.

When asked which one is the hero, they pointed to each other and said, "He is."

Fire departmentpersonnel on the scene said the helicopter crew's actions not only saved the boy's life, but also likely prevented brain damage, Feuerstein said.

The landing area at the intersection of Springtime Lane and Dancy Circle was tight, with telephone lines and poles, and a car parked on the street. But they could see that no cars were coming.

"We train a lot to land in confined areas," McNaughton said.

The Aero Unit has only done a handful of emergency landings in residential areas in its history, McNaughton said.

The last one was about three years ago, McNaughton said, when he had to land at Huntington Harbor to help a girl who had her hair stuck in a hot tub.

After the rescue, the Huntington Beach Fire Department brought the two men a chocolate pie from Marie Callender's.

"We wanted to do something nice for them," firefighter Philip Cheung said.

FIRSTON SCENE:R.J. Garwood, right, and Rick McNaughton landed their copter on a city street.

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