High school cheerleader jumps off float to rescue choking toddler during homecoming parade

A Texas cheerleader saved the day after she noticed a child in distress during her high school's annual homecoming parade.

Tyra Winters, a 17-year-old senior at Rockwall High School in Rockwall, Texas, was sitting on a float with her cheer squad during the Sept. 18 parade when she spotted a spectator, Nicole Hornback, holding up her choking 2-year-old son, Chase, while screaming for help.

"There was no coughing, there was no breathing," Hornback told KXAS-TV of the scary event. "He was just physically choking, just gagging, and just gasping for air."

"To feel so useless as a mother was the most terrifying thing in my life," she recalled.

After spotting the distressed pair, Winters lept from her float, grabbed the child from Hornback and began performing a version of the Heimlich maneuver that works best on young children, the student told KTVT.

"He was turning purple, so I immediately jumped off the float, I ran down to the kiddo, and I was like, 'I got him,' and I grabbed him from the mom," she told the station. "I grabbed him and tilted him and I gave a good three back thrusts and he ended up spitting up."

The Heimlich method Winters performed involves leaning a choking child forward while they are in an upright position and bracing them with one hand at the waist, St. Luke's Children's Hospital explains. Then, with your free hand, give the child 5 back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. If this is ineffective, the hospital reccommends attempting the traditional method.

Winters, who hopes to become a pediatric surgeon, told KXAS-TV she is trained in the Heimlich maneuver and CPR because her mother runs a group home for foster children.

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After rescuing the toddler, Winters rejoined her squad's float, losing track of the family.

Hornback later reached out to Rockwall High School administrators so she could track the hero teen down and thank her. The two met on Oct. 1 in an emotional reunion.

"I don't really have any words," Hornback said at the time. "The words that you would say to anyone who does something for you is 'thank you.' But that doesn't seem good enough."