La Crosse Central student saves choking friend

A La Crosse Central high schooler is being called a hero after putting his lifesaving skills to good use.

When freshman Ian Brown’s friend Will Olson began to choke during lunch on Wednesday, Brown was quick to respond.

Good friends Brown and Olson said it started as a normal day.

“We got China Buffet from over there, just across the street, and brought it back,” Olson said.

The surveillance video, however, shows how quickly that can change.

“Someone cracked a joke and Will put food in his mouth and that didn’t go too well,” Brown said.

“I took a deep breath in, as I was laughing and that’s when I started to choke,” Olson said.

“He kind of started turning purple, blue, kind of not right,” Brown said.

The footage shows Olson choking and struggling to breathe.

Brown quickly realized it was time to do something.

“A couple of the other kids just didn’t do anything, so I’m like all right, I’ll step up to the plate and help him out,” he said.

“It was scary, definitely,” Olson said.

Brown knew just what to do, thanks in part to his participation in the La Crosse Police Explorers program. The program teaches students about police work, including the Heimlich maneuver he used on Will.

“It was great to see Ian use what he learned and without really having to think twice. Saying, ‘OK, this is the situation, this is what I have to do,'” said Officer Kurt Weaver, who leads the program.

“What was actually going through my head was what was my next step if this doesn’t work,” Brown said.

But it did work.

“Today I feel relieved because I know he’s here,” Brown said.

“I could’ve been dead. I could be dead now,” Olson said. “I’m thankful. I can’t say thank you enough for what he did.”

Olson said learning lifesaving techniques is now on his agenda, but eating Chinese food again is not.

“Probably not for a very long time,” he said.

Olson is the son of a News 8 staff member.

Weaver said the Police Department is going to start recruiting new students for the Police Explorers Program at the three La Crosse high schools in late April and early May.

The Police Explorer program offers young adults experience in the criminal justice system through training, practical experiences, competition and other activities. The program promotes personal growth through character development, respect for the rule of law, physical fitness, good citizenship and patriotism, police said.

The program provides classroom training in diverse topics such as first aid, community policing, investigations, conducting a traffic stop and more. The goal is to make the program a stepping stone for students to move into law enforcement careers, according to the La Crosse Police Department.