Choking death at Disney leads NY woman to produce food preparation videos, change law


NISKAYUNA, N.Y. (WRGB) - Despite being surrounded by a group of people, a little boy died from choking while on vacation with his family.

Now his Godmother, Joannie Hugues, is on a mission to never let it happen again.

“You just don't realize how something like that could impact you, you don’t expect a child to die, you don't anticipate a healthy child dying,” Hugues said.

Hugues drove all the way from Long Island to our CBS 6 studios in Niskayuna to speak with CBS 6’s Anne McCloy about JT, who was only 3-years-old.

"It was just very sudden, he had choked on a hot dog. They were at Disney and he choked while waiting in line with his family. A crowd obviously, but no one was able to help him. Just losing him was a horrible traumatic experience for me and my whole family,” Hugues said.

A photo of JT has never been released to the media, but his name is synonymous with JT's Law, aimed at choking prevention in New York State. JT's family gave Joannie their blessing to try and save other children.

A child dies from choking on food at least once every five days.

“JT's Law was something I had taken from the beginning to the end,” Hugues said.

The law passed in 2008. It requires the State to provide an annual report to the governor on child food choking, and to make choking statistics and prevention resources public, but Hugues didn't stop there. Her online videos, that show parents the proper way to cut up high-risk food have been seen worldwide.

“I've done the one on hot dogs. I’ve done one on nuts, because nuts should be avoided altogether for young children," she said.

Now Hugues wants New York State to extend JTs law to require teachers, and cafeteria staff get training on how to save your child.

“If they are going to be in the lunch room and they are going to be watching your child eat, they should be trained on the Heimlich maneuver.”

Click here to see Joannie Hugues’ videos on food preparation to avoid child choking hazards

See Part 1 of this special report, including demonstrations on how to save a child from choking.

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