LUTZ — There are only a few seconds between waste being placed into the back of a garbage truck and it becoming compressed into a square that’s the quarter of its original size.
It was in these few seconds that Waldo Fidele saved a life Wednesday afternoon.
The garbage truck driver was loading waste into an automated trash collection truck in Lutz when he saw something unusual in a rearview camera — a small boy.
Fidele reacted quickly, shutting off the truck and its hopper, saving the seven-year-old boy from being almost instantly crushed and killed, according to Shawn Plunkett, the operations manager for Waste Connections of Florida Operations in Tampa.
“He’s truly a hero,” said Plunkett. “If he hadn’t been paying close attention to the job, we would all be searching for a missing seven year old today.”
The boy had been hiding in a garbage can with the lid closed, Plunkett said. His name was not released by the waste management company.
If it weren’t for Fidele keeping a close eye on the rearview cameras, it’s likely that the boy would’ve been killed without anyone ever discovering how, Plunkett said.
“The truck instantly treats trash like a garbage disposal does,” he said. “Then after it is in the truck, it heads straight to an incendiary. Nobody would have ever known what happened to him.”
Instead — thanks to Fidele — the boy escaped the incident with just a scratch on his wrist and a story that will stick with him for a lifetime.
Kurt Salac, the director of Fidele’s company, described what happened as being nothing short of a miracle.
“Waste management workers are often the unsung heroes of a community,” said Salac. “But we believe this action deserves some praise from everyone.”