‘I thought I was going to be a mashed potato’: Boy, 7, saved by Florida sanitation worker

TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida sanitation worker pulled a 7-year-old boy from the back of a garbage truck after the child hid in a trash can and was dumped into the vehicle.

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Waldo Fidele, who works for Waste Connections of Florida Operations in Tampa, was loading waste into an automated trash collection truck when he saw a boy in his surveillance camera, WTVT reported.

As the boy tumbled into the truck, Fidele reacted quickly, shutting off the truck and its hopper and deactivating the blade that is used to chop up the refuse, the television station reported.

The actions saved Elias Quezada from being fatally crushed, Shawn Plunkett, operations manager for Waste Connections, told the Tampa Bay Times.

“He’s truly a hero,” Plunkett told the newspaper. “If he hadn’t been paying close attention to the job, we would all be searching for a missing 7-year-old today.”

Quezada hid inside of a trash can, and a few minutes later, Fidele drove up in his truck, WTVT reported.

The child knew he had survived a close call and admitted he was scared.

“Yes, because I thought I was going to be a mashed potato,” Quezada told WTVT.

Plunkett said the boy would have been killed without anyone knowing about it, but Fidele’s sharp eye saved the day.

“The truck instantly treats trash like a garbage disposal does,” Plunkett told the Times. “Then after it is in the truck, it heads straight to an incendiary. Nobody would have ever known what happened to him.”

Kurt Salac, the director of Waste Connections, called the rescue miraculous.

“Waste management workers are often the unsung heroes of a community,” Salac told the Times. “But we believe this action deserves some praise from everyone.”

Quezada said he would not try jumping into a trash can again -- at least one that is outside.

“Unless it’s like a tiny trash can that’s inside the house,” Quezada told WTVT. “That might be fine.”