Employee saves choking customer’s life at Rockaway sandwich shop

A sandwich shop employee saved a choking woman’s life Friday afternoon in Rockaway, according to authorities and dramatic security video from inside the store.

Danielle Buccelli, 21, used the Heimlich maneuver when she realized a lunchtime customer was choking at Primo Hoagies, the video showed.

“In the moment, with the adrenaline, I simply did not think,”[ads1]; she said in an interview. “I just did.”

Buccelli, a Randolph resident, learned the Heimlich maneuver during CPR training she received as a teenager.

Her father joined the Randolph Township Fire Department after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, so Buccelli said she grew up around fists, joining the fire department when she was 16 years old. There she had to be re-certified in CPR every two years.

So when the woman, who authorities have not identified, began choking on her sandwich, Buccelli said she was prepared.

“I ran behind the counter and did the Heimlich maneuver,” Buccelli said, telling himself, “You were prepared for this moment. Now you have to do what you’re trained to do.”

Buccelli said she works at Primo Hoagies about 40 hours spread over five or six days per week. She added that it is “all around, a very nice place to work.”

Primo Hoagies’ corporate office said the company paid Buccelli $1,000 for saving the woman’s life Friday. She plans to either save the money or use it for the wedding next fall.

“Danielle, literally from the start, was an amazing employee,” said Vinny DeRose, the Rockaway location’s general manager. “(She) always cared about everyone who came in and was just an extremely hard worker.”

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Camille Furst can be reached at Find her on Twitter @CamilleFurst.

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