By: James Buechele
June 20, 2013
Crawfordville, FL - It's a parent's worst nightmare: their child stops breathing. That nightmare however, ended with some quick-thinking, and, as a family says, prayer.
You'd never guess it but Sapheriah McKinney, 4, Crawfordville, was just minutes away from dying after choking on a foreign object at school Monday.
Both her mother Yolanda Timmons and grandma Malda Timmons was working at Bright Beginnings preschool in Crawfordville. When the Heimlich maneuver didn't work, they dialed 911 and took off down highway 61 towards the emergency center.
That's when they were able to wave down SGT. Billy Jones of the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office.
"I gave [Sapheriah] to [SGT. Jones]," said Malda Timmons. "I knew she wasn't breathing. I knew she wasn't and he told me 'ladies you know she wasn't breathing' and I told him 'yes I did know' but I didn't want my daughter to know but he told me that he squeezed her tight and she took a deep breath. That was God working through him."
SGT. Billy Jones has kids of his own. He knew the situation was serious even before he arrived.
"Anytime a child's involved, we probably, or I personally think of my own children," said Jones "What I would do, how important they are to me and that thought does cross your mind."
A ten-year veteran of the force now has the biggest fan club for life in Wakulla County.
"I have thanked him over and over and over," said Yolanda Timmons, Sapheriah's mom. "And I love him to death. I'm so thankful for him. He is like an angel sent from above."
It's still not clear what Sapheriah swallowed. SGT Jones wants to thank the EMTs that were on the scene shortly after. He says hearing the ambulance on the way helped reassure him that everything was going to be okay.
Press Release: Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office
Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Billy Jones’ quick reaction saved the life of a 4-year-old preschool child who was choking on an undetermined foreign object Monday, June 17. The child was not breathing when the child’s mother frantically gave the child to Sgt. Jones seeking assistance.
Sgt. Jones was able to grab Sapheriah McKinney from her mother Yolanda Timmons and dislodge the foreign object. The object cleared the child’s throat and Wakulla EMS arrived on scene to transport the child to the hospital for observation. After doctors determined that the child was in no danger from the foreign object, she was released from the hospital.
On Wednesday, June 19, Yolanda Timmons presented a Special Hero Award to Sgt. Jones in Sheriff Charlie Creel’s office.
Forty-eight hours after the incident took place it was still emotional for Ms. Timmons. “They are still not sure what it was,” said Timmons as she wiped away her tears. “I would like to give a special thanks to Sgt. Billy Jones for saving my daughter’s life. If it wasn’t for you and God, my daughter wouldn’t be here right now.”
“Sgt. Jones showed great care in assisting the child and mother in their time of distress and crisis, but he also took the time to go back to the Bright Beginnings Preschool to let them know that Sapheriah was going to be fine,” said Sheriff Creel. “He is a fine example of some of the outstanding people we have working at the sheriff’s office. This is what he was trained to do.”
“We just panicked and got in the car and figured we’d meet him halfway,” said Ms. Timmons, a mother of three. “You are my angels from above.”
After dislodging the object, Sgt. Jones carried the child into the ambulance and gave her a teddy bear. “I told her this little teddy bear needed a momma,” said Sgt. Jones, who has two children of his own. “I get a little emotional too when I think about what could have happened.”
When Sgt. Jones shared the story with his own family after work earlier this week his daughter asked him to give a Minnie Mouse doll to Sapheriah on her behalf and Sgt. Jones presented the Minnie Mouse while Ms. Timmons presented him with his plaque.
Sgt. Jones also returned to the preschool to talk to the students about never putting foreign objects in your mouth on Tuesday. “There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re losing a child,” said Sgt. Jones. “I love working with the kids and it was awesome to get a hug.”
Sgt. Jones tends to shy away from publicity but as Ms. Timmons presented the plaque he added, “I will treasure this.”
Jones is a former School Resource Officer at Wakulla High School who is currently assigned to the Youth and Community Services Division. With in-service training underway at the sheriff’s office, Sgt. Jones was substituting on the Road Patrol while the regular road patrol crew was involved with training.