Off-duty firefighter leapt across tables to save a man’s life in a Leamington bar

The bar owner was choking on his food until Mark Ellis sprung into action and dislodged the piece of beef from his throat

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 11:36 am
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 11:38 am
Firefighter Mark Ellis.
Firefighter Mark Ellis.

An off-duty firefighter leapt across tables to save a man’s life while he was out for lunch with his wife in Leamington

Mark Ellis was at the Cellar Club in Leamington when he heard people screaming - it turned out that the bar owner, Gareth Dore, was choking on his meal.

The incident happened on May 23 but Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service is keen to share the story now to celebrate its firefighter’s actions.

Gareth had been enjoying the reopening of his bar with his girlfriend and her family and had sat down for a meal with them.

Gareth said: “I sat down to enjoy a beef roast with my family. I am well known for not being very patient when working, so I started to eat far too quickly, skipping chewing the delicious beef in favour of just swallowing…not advisable.

“In a very scary moment I realised I could not breathe or even swallow to move a very large, unchewed piece of beef that got lodged in my throat. After a few seconds I jumped off my chair to point towards my mouth to point out I couldn’t breathe to my girlfriend’s family.

“Incredibly quickly, my girlfriend’s dad, Dec, and her uncle, Kier, sprung into action in giving me the Heimlich manoeuvre and slapping my back.

"I remember thinking, ‘This is it!’, as I looked around to see my girlfriend. Genuinely terrifying!”

Mark, who is based at Wellesbourne Fire Station, said: “I noticed that Gareth was going a strange colour in the face, unable to breathe or speak and realised he was choking. I quickly jumped over the tables to get to him, as I knew I had to take action and take control of this emergency situation.

“As I got to Gareth, I stood behind him and performed two abdominal thrusts, paused for a couple of seconds followed by two very hard slaps between the shoulder blades. I did this a further three times until a piece of beef became dislodged and he was able to breathe again.”

Gareth’s memory of the moment when he was choking is hazy but he remembers being able to breathe again due to Mark’s efforts.

However the piece of beef was still partially lodged in his throat. Paramedics arrived on the scene and assisted Gareth with fully clearing his airway.

Gareth said: “The sense of relief and joy [when the airway was fully cleared] was immediate.

"Although I knew I was in shock, I was just so happy that I could breathe again and just wanted to get back to work. I went back inside to thank Mark for literally saving my life! We enjoyed a drink together and it’s been a pleasure to get to know them both more since. I went on to do what I love best in making sure everyone was having a good time afterwards and I was delighted to spend the rest of the day with Mark and Sarah.

“Without his quick thinking and immediate action, I don’t think I’d be here now to say this. Mark went above and beyond, I owe him my life and I will never forget what he did for me, my girlfriend and both our families on that day. He is a friend for life and we should all be so lucky to have such a caring person in this world.”

Councillor Andy Crump, portfolio holder for fire and rescue and community safety at Warwickshire County Council, said: “This is a remarkable story and Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service is extremely proud of Mark’s lifesaving actions. He is a fantastic example of how firefighters serve their communities.”