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Tampa Bay boy who wound up in back of garbage truck saved by driver’s quick action

The child was hiding in a closed garbage can that was dumped into the back of the truck. The driver saw the boy and got him out or he would have been crushed.
Waldo Fidele and the seven-year-old boy he saved from being crushed by a garbage truck Wednesday.
Waldo Fidele and the seven-year-old boy he saved from being crushed by a garbage truck Wednesday. [ Waste Connections of Florida ]
Published Feb. 11
Updated Feb. 11

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.

The seven-year-old boy survived the incident with nothing more than a cut on his wrist.
The seven-year-old boy survived the incident with nothing more than a cut on his wrist. [ Kurt Salac ]

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.”