10-year-old boy recognized for saving choking friend

Ten-year-old Owen Killam was at a friend’s birthday party last Friday, when his friend, nine-year-old Reichen Sherry, started choking on gumballs.

'It’s a big deal, and I wanted him to be sure that he knew that'

Owen Killam has received certificates from the Town of Kensington, as well as the International Police Association, recognizing him for saving his friend's life. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

A boy from Kensington, P.E.I., is being recognized for saving his friend's life.

Ten-year-old Owen Killam was at a friend's birthday party last Friday, when his friend, 9-year-old Reichen Sherry, started choking on gum balls.

"He was gasping for air so he kind of slapped me," said Owen. "And I just got up and did … the Heimlich manoeuvre."

His friends, their parents, and his own parents were so impressed with his quick thinking, that word quickly spread around town.

Now, his quick thinking and action had been formally recognized by the International Police Association, as well as the mayor of Kensington.

Recognized for his efforts

Const. Robb Hartlen with the Kensington Police Service said when he heard about what Owen had done, he immediately knew he wanted to recognize him in some way. He contacted his local executive with the International Police Association, who then got in touch with others within the organization.

Const. Robb Hartlen said he was very impressed when he heard what Owen Killam had done. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

At a school assembly Tuesday morning at Queen Elizabeth Elementary, Hartlen presented Owen with a certificate from the association which recognizes him "for decisive actions while saving a life."

"It's a big deal, and I wanted him to be sure that he knew that," said Hartlen.

At the assembly, he also received a certificate of recognition from the Town of Kensington.

'Saw it on TV'

Owen said he had never done the Heimlich manoeuvre before, and had never even been taught what to do if someone chokes. 

They're obviously watching and learning when you think that they're not really paying attention.- Doug Killam

He had seen someone do the manoeuvre on TV, and that's how he knew what to do. 

"I didn't know it was going to work at all," said Owen. "I just felt glad that nothing bad happened."

Owen's parents, Doug and Laura Killam, said they were amazed when they heard what he had done.

Parents Doug and Laura Killam, and sister Ellie, are all very proud of Owen. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"People say kids watch too much TV but you know, they're obviously watching and learning when you think that they're not really paying attention. It's pretty amazing," said Doug Killam.

'It's pretty scary'

Carol Clarke, who was hosting the birthday party for her son Quin, said the boys quickly forgot about the incident, and moved on with the party.

"They were shoving Cheezies in their mouth, and eating cake, and bouncing later at a trampoline park. It didn't really affect them too much."

Reichen Sherry (second from left), Owen Killam (far right) and their friends quickly moved on and enjoyed the rest of the party, said Carol Clarke. (Submitted by Carol Clarke)

For her, though, it left a lasting impression.

"I was emotional about what a big and amazing thing Owen did," said Clarke.

"If things had been different, and Owen hadn't have been there … I'm not sure what would have happened. It's pretty scary."

Clarke is a teacher, and said the incident led her to teach her Grade 6 students how to do the Heimlich during health class Monday morning.

Clarke and the Killams all say the experience has made them more aware of teaching their kids what to do in an emergency.

"It's getting everybody talking," said Clarke.


Sarah MacMillan is a journalist with CBC Toronto. She previously reported in Sudbury, Ont. and Prince Edward Island. You can contact her at