Texas Supreme Court Justice, local assistant band director save the life of Austin father

Justice Don Willett and Gorzycki Middle School Assistant Band Director Herson De La Garza took a photo after they worked together to save the life of a man who was choking at Chick-Fil-A Nov. 28, 2017 (Courtesy Don Willett)
Justice Don Willett and Gorzycki Middle School Assistant Band Director Herson De La Garza took a photo after they worked together to save the life of a man who was choking at Chick-Fil-A Nov. 28, 2017 (Courtesy Don Willett)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Add the title “hero” to Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett and Gorzycki Middle School Assistant Band Director Herson De La Garza. Both men saved the life of an Austin father Tuesday afternoon.

De La Garza tells KXAN News he was waiting for his food at the Chick-Fil-A in southwest Austin off MoPac and U.S. 290. He says he noticed a man dinning with his daughter suddenly grab his throat and show signs of choking.

Justice Don Willett and Gorzycki Middle School Assistant Band Director Herson De La Garza took a photo after they worked together to save the life of a man who was choking at Chick-Fil-A Nov. 28, 2017 (Courtesy Don Willett)
Justice Don Willett and Gorzycki Middle School Assistant Band Director Herson De La Garza took a photo after they worked together to save the life of a man who was choking at Chick-Fil-A Nov. 28, 2017 (Courtesy Don Willett)

“I could see his daughter looking straight at me,” De La Garza said. “This really caught my attention because I was not going to let this man suffer in front of his daughter.”

He says he jumped into action and did the Heimlich maneuver four times. After the fourth attempt, De La Garza says he got tired, and that’s when the man behind him helped him out. It turned out to be Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett.

In a statement to KXAN News, Justice Willett says De La Garza is the true hero.

“I was hunched over my MacBook, munching some Chick-fil-A chicken strips while discussing errands with my wife on my cell. Suddenly, a nearby customer rushed to the booth in front of me and started performing the Heimlich maneuver on a dad who was dining with his young daughter. I hung up on my wife (first time in 21 years!) and jumped up. The quick-acting Good Samaritan, Herson De La Garza, a middle school band director, had given three or four upward abdominal thrusts, but the man was still choking. Herson moved over, and I gave a quick thrust or two, dislodging the nugget and clearing the airway. Herson was first on the scene and deserves enormous praise. I’m writing a letter to the Austin I.S.D. superintendent recounting Herson’s Heimlich heroism. This all happened in the blink of an eye. I implore everyone to get trained on the Heimlich, CPR, and other basic life-saving skills. I hugged my wife and three wee Willetts a little tighter when I got home, and we prayed for this man’s dear family. Life is precious—and fleeting.”

After the rescue, both heroes took time to take a photo together.

News spread fast. Chief Judge Stephen Louis A. Dillard tweeted “This Day in Judicial ‘Activism’: @JusticeWillett successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver on a fellow dad at a @ChickfilA in Austin this evening.”

Justice Willett was recently nominated by President Trump to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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