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KC firefighter, nearly killed at Missouri train crash, saves choking baseball fan

Todd Covington, who was nearly crushed to death last June when an Amtrak train derailed in Mendon, Missouri, has long believed that God and the universe have a plan, even when that plan is unclear.

Perhaps part of the reason the Kansas City firefighter walked away then, after being nearly buried alive, was made clear Wednesday when Covington literally leaped into action in Washington, D.C., during a Washington Nationals baseball game, performing the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of a fan who was choking.

“I was just watching a baseball game,” Covington, 49, joked Thursday, back in Kansas City, “and somebody tried to die beside me.”

The prime reason Covington was in Washington, D.C., with his family and girlfriend, was for him, and firefighting colleague Joe Disciacca, to receive special recognition from Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican, for their actions during the Mendon crash. The derailment killed four people and injured some 150 passengers and crew. Covington, forced to dig himself out of mounting debris, and Disciacca helped multiple people to safety.

Covington said Disciacca and their families were watching the Nationals face the San Diego Padres when his girlfriend noticed a commotion a few rows ahead. A man was choking. People were yelling for help.

She called out to Covington. He jumped into action, stepping over two rows to first give the man a few back blows. They didn’t work. He twice used the Heimlich maneuver. Either a peanut or a peanut shell popped from the man’s airway.

Sports reporter Grant Paulsen, for Washington’s 106.7-FM The Fan radio station, witnessed the scene unfold in Section 113.

“We overuse the term hero but the guy saved a persons life. Legit hero,” Paulsen later tweeted. He recorded Covington on cellphone video.

“You’re a hero, man. You saved his life,” Paulsen said.

Covington, flashing a large smile, laughed and brushed it off.

“We just chalk another one up for the good guys, right?” he responded. “It had nothing to do with me. It was everybody.”

Covington said the fan was grateful. He shook Covington’s hand, hugged him. He offered to buy everyone in Covington’s group beers for the rest of the night.

“He was very kind, very thankful,” Covington said. He turned down the offer, telling the fan, “Just trying to be a good human.”

Back at his seat, Covington’s son turned toward his dad.

“It’s one of those days,” he said his son told him. “The train hero become a hero again.”

“Oh, shut up,” Covington responded.