Norwich City College worker grateful to stranger who stopped him choking

A worker from City College Norwich has offered his 'huge thanks' to the stranger who saved his life while he ate in a busy Norfolk pub.

John Thompson, 43, was eating dinner with his family at the Vernon Arms in Southrepps last Saturday when he began to choke.

Despite attempts by his wife to dislodge the food, he carried on struggling – until a nearby visitor stepped in to save him.

'I had a meat pie, and I've had this pie before because it's gorgeous,' said Mr Thompson, a technician at City College in Norwich, who lives in North Walsham.

'It's steak and Guinness and you get huge chunks of meat in there.'

But unfortunately one of those pieces proved too much to swallow and got lodged in Mr Thompson's throat.

'I suddenly realised it just wasn't going down at all. I started panicking. My wife started hitting me on the back, but it wasn't doing any good. I thought at that moment 'I can't breathe, I'm going to die'. I actually thought 'this is it',' he said.

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But Ralph Maddison, 45, was visiting the UK for a weekend from New Zealand, and sprung into action. As reported last week, he performed the Heimlich manoeuvre and saved Mr Thompson in front of his wife Sarah and daughters Emma, 15, and Laura, 11, and his brother's family. Mr Maddison grew up in Sheringham and worked as nurse in intensive care at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital before emigrating, something which had given him the training to step in and save Mr Thompson's life.

Mr Thompson said that after he had been saved he sat down in his chair, 'numb' to what had happened, while his daughters cried. At the time he did not get a chance to thank Mr Maddison as he wanted, and later expressed his gratitude.

'It's just a huge thanks to him,' he said. 'He saved my life; I can't thank him enough for it really.'

Do you have a story about someone's heroic actions saving a life? Call reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or email