CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A Chesapeake City Jail inmate was honored with the Citizen’s Service Award at the 4th Quarter Service Awards & Promotional Ceremony at the Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday for saving a deputy’s life.

The deputy, Robert Rench, was choking on a sandwich while inmates were taking a lunch break from cutting grass at a pump station in August, and the inmate jumped into action, performing the Heimlich maneuver.

It was part of the first aid training the same deputy actually taught him.

“I’m gonna tell you that was probably the longest 60 seconds of my life,” said inmate Curtis Harrell. “I was thinking at first that he was having a stroke, but then I realized he was actually choking.”

Deputy Rench teaches CPR and first aid classes to the inmates before they join the workforce program and he actually taught Harrell how to perform the Heimlich.

“That’s a bad feeling when you cant breathe and I tried not to panic, but I motioned to him to come around and he knew exactly what to do,” Rench said.

“If I would’ve been by myself I don’t know what would’ve happened,” Rench said.

“As he released what he was choking on it was nothing but hugs and fives,” Harrell said. “It was a relief to see that he was breathing again.”

Harrell says when he took the class he never thought he would actually need to use the training.

“I’m glad I had that class because I probably wouldn’t have known what to do,” Harrell said.

Sheriff Jim O’Sullivan says the workforce program has saved the city about $1.5 million dollars.

Inmates start with jobs inside the jail, and then eventually work outside mowing lawns and servicing city vehicles.

He says inmates are doing many jobs that people don’t want to do, and sometimes they can be dangerous.

“Injuries happen so we depend on them to help each other,” O’Sullivan said. “It almost gets me emotional even thinking about it. Bob worked for me for almost 25 years and Curtis Harrell, he’s part of the family. He saved one of my deputies and it’s amazing.”

Harrell says he previously had a different job in the workshop doing small engine repair and was just switched to join the mowing crew two weeks before this happened.

“I feel like God put me in the right place at the right time to do God’s work,” Harrell said. “If I wasn’t there I don’t think he would be alive today.”

Harrell says saving Deputy Rench’s life has had a big impact on his life too.

“Rench is a very good person and I know he would do the same for me,” Harrell said.

Harrell is serving time for a probation violation, and only has a few months left in jail. He says he has big plans once he’s released in October.