Matthieu Widner was just doing his job as a Florida Department of Transportation road ranger when he pulled behind a vehicle parked on the left shoulder of Interstate 75 last Friday.
What ensued was not a typical stop for Widner, who has been a road ranger for about three months. Instead of helping with minor fixes to get vehicles moving again, Widner saved a choking baby’s life. The baby was born March 27.
“I was blessed enough to be in the right place at the right time,” the 25-year-old Palmetto resident said Wednesday. “The feeling was wonderful.”
A little after 11 a.m. June 3, Widner saw a brown Lexus GS300 on the left shoulder of I-75 southbound near exit 228 so he parked and walked up to the car. Widner said he saw a man in the backseat with a baby boy already blue and red in the face. Widner, who is CPR certified, put the baby in a football hold and starting hitting his back until he threw up milk.
“I turned him over after he got all the stuff out,” Widner said. “I gave him two big breaths of my own. The baby turned back to normal color. I was just doing my job. I didn’t realize it was going to go this viral.”
As a father of an infant himself, Widner said he needed to take a breather after saving the baby’s life.
“It all hit me at once,” he said. “While I was doing that to that baby, I could see my baby. I would have done it even if I didn’t have a baby myself. It was a wild situation.”
When an emergency vehicle is parked on the shoulder, vehicles traveling in the lane closest to the “emergency vehicle, sanitation vehicle, utility service vehicle or wrecker” must move over or slow to a lower speed, according to Florida’s Move Over Law.
“I deal with it on a daily basis,” Widner said. “We really have to watch ourselves.”