Hero custodian honored by school committee

By Ethan Hartley
Posted 11/29/22

Bobby Santos, the custodian at Guiteras Elementary School, saved a student’s life after they began choking during a lunch period in October.

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Hero custodian honored by school committee


The Bristol Warren Regional School Committee recognized a local hero during Monday night’s meeting.

Bobby Santos, the custodian at Guiteras Elementary School, was recognized for his quick action that saved a student’s life, who had begun choking during a lunch period in October. His actions, covered in this paper shortly afterward, went viral on social media, with hundreds of people liking and sharing the story.

Guiteras principal Christine Hughes read a proclamation regarding the event, and praising Santos not just for his actions that day, but every day in carrying out his duties at the school. Here is the full statement:

“It was a busy lunch period with the upper elementary students, consisting of three teaching assistants and Robert Santos, the Guiteras School custodian who is affectionally called ‘Mr. Bobby’.

Mr. Bobby has many responsibilities that lead to the cleanliness and safety of our almost 100-year-old school. The students look to him to make sure things are running very smoothly, and they always are.

At the busy lunch period mentioned above, Mr. Bobby is one more set of hands to open the many juice boxes and milk cartons. He talks to students as they practice dumping liquids out before recycling. We practice everything very well at Guiteras School.

One day in October, though, lunch seemed different. I was doing rounds in the lunch room when a teaching assistant saw a student looking distressed. The teaching assistant called out, ‘A student is choking!’

Mr. Bobby moved quickly to get behind the student to administer the Heimlich maneuver. It was almost a minute — a very long minute. The child was eventually able to loosen the fruit from their throat, and breathe. We all started to breathe again knowing the child was okay.

Mr. Bobby’s quick action was faster than any phone call for help. Mr. Bobby didn’t think about what to do, he just took action, knowing how to perform this life-saving technique.

One student reflected afterwards and said, ‘I knew everything was going to be okay, because Mr. Bobby and Principal Hughes were there.’

Mr. Bobby has been declared a local hero, but to him, he was just doing his job. Mr. Bobby has pride in his valuable position at Guiteras Elementary School. We thank him from the bottom of our hearts, because he is our district’s superstar for his heroic actions at Guiteras Elementary School. Thank you, Bobby Santos.”

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.