Alleghany Junior Recognized for Heroic Life-Saving Measure

Alleghany Junior Recognized for Heroic Life-Saving Measure
Posted on 05/16/2024

Alleghany High School junior Zeke Downey was joined by family members at an Alleghany Highlands School Board meeting on May 13. Downey was recognized by the school board for his recent heroic efforts to rescue a student from choking. From left are his mother, Crystal Downey, Zeke, Kaden Downey, and sister, Kendall Downey. Kendall is a student at Sharon Elementary School. 

LOW MOOR — An Alleghany High School junior is being hailed a hero after jumping into action to save a choking student.

Eighteen-year-old Ezekiel Downey, who is known as “Zeke” to his family and friends, was recognized by the Alleghany Highlands School Board on May 13 for his recent act of heroism. It was on May 8 that Downey rushed to the aid of a choking student in the AHS cafeteria. Downey quickly used the Heimlich maneuver to save the student’s life.

At its May meeting, the school board approved a resolution honoring Downey. The resolution describes his decision to provide swift assistance as “a remarkable, civic-minded act that was crucial to another person in a moment of need — saving a life — and that also serves as an example of excellent community service.”

“We couldn’t be more proud of Zeke. Without hesitation he sprang into action to diffuse what could’ve been a horrible situation,” said Jacob Wright, chair of the Alleghany Highlands School Board. “It’s not easy to act quickly in an emergency situation, many people initially freeze. However, this young man wasted zero time in administering help. He saved a life. That’s something to be really proud of.”

Downey is a welding student at Jackson River Technical Center. He learned the Heimlich maneuver, which is a first aid method for choking, from watching television and movies. The maneuver is commonly taught during basic life support and advanced cardiac life support classes.

It’s a useful skill that the teenager said he never imagined he’d be putting into use during a routine lunch at school. Downey said he leapt into action as soon as he became aware that a student was choking nearby. 

“I think God was talking to me a little bit,” Downey said of his swift course of action. “God was telling me to get up and go help [the student]. It makes me feel really good that I was able to help.”

While staff members were also present in the cafeteria when the choking incident occurred, and numerous staff at the school are trained in various forms of first aid, Downey’s quick action saved valuable time because he was very nearby and noticed the situation immediately.

Members of Downey’s family were present for his recognition by the school board. 

“I am proud of Zeke. I didn’t even know he knew how to administer the Heimlich maneuver. I was excited to learn that he had saved a life. I am just super proud of him,” said his mother, Crystal Downey.

In his spare time, Downey enjoys playing music, particularly guitar and bass, working out and distance running. He also enjoys doing yard work for friends and family during the summer.   

When asked if he is interested in health care or first responder careers in the future, Zeke candidly shared that he was “[not really healthcare unless he feels called to be a doctor someday.] However, he is considering a wide variety of career options including real estate brokering, welding, or music. Possibly, all three, he said.

AHPS is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington. The school division serves approximately 2,700 students. It was created through the July 21, 2022, merger of Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center.

AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools and Instagram at ahpublicschools. Information is also available at


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