With downcast eyes, Island Park resident Tyler Ostrander, 21, claimed he hadn’t done anything special. “I’m just another guy,” he said.
But for Long Beach resident Joyce Coletti, Ostrander is more than just an ordinary man. Five minutes after getting into work on April 8 as a food runner at Jimmy Hays Steakhouse, he heard his name being shouted from outside the kitchen.
Thinking he had done something wrong, he emerged to instead find that Coletti, 66, was choking, and that his fellow employees — knowing Ostrander had received emergency medical technician training — were calling on him to help her.
“I saw death,” Coletti said. “But then he came out of nowhere." She recalled that he compressed her chest four times before dislodging the piece of steak that had been blocking her airway. “My ribs still hurt, thank you very much,” she said to Ostrander jokingly.
The two gathered, along with Ostrander’s parents and girlfriend, in Rockville Centre on May 10, where State Sen. Todd Kaminsky honored him with the New York State Liberty Medal for his lifesaving actions.
The medal is the highest honor a state senator can bestow on a civilian. “I am honored to award this Liberty Medal to Tyler Ostrander for being a great guy,” Kaminsky said.
While he has been an employee at Jimmy Hayes for a number of years, Ostrander ultimately dreams of becoming a professional firefighter. “I’m dying to join the FDNY,” he said, adding that he signed up to take the initial entrance exam in September.
He said he enjoys the thrill of helping others in emergency situations. “Anyone that knows firefighting knows why they love it,” he said. Ostrander is currently a volunteer firefighter for the Island Park Fire Department.
Coletti blames herself for the incident. “I was talking and eating,” she said. But after sitting in silence for a moment, she mused: “You know, I don’t think I could go back to Jimmy Hays.”