Corona del Mar Today: Five Crowns waitress saves choking woman

Melissa Scharfe has been a Five Crowns server for six years, but she's also a full-time student getting ready for medical school — a fact that helped save the life of a woman who began choking during a holiday meal last week.

The incident occurred about 6 p.m. Tuesday when Five Crowns was packed with diners enjoying traditional holiday meals, with decorations, fireplaces and carolers adding to the atmosphere.

Scharfe was working her way through a crowded hallway, a cosmopolitan on a tray in her hands, when she heard a woman in the main dining room scream.

"'She can't breathe! Is there a doctor in the house?'" Scharfe said the woman shouted.

The woman's mother had collapsed, and while Scharfe handed the cocktail to another server to deliver, she made her way to the victim to help.

A manager and another diner helped lift the woman, and the diner tried hitting her on the back. But Scharfe could tell that wasn't helping, so she took over and performed the Heimlich maneuver.

It took three big thrusts to work, she said.

"I felt her lungs fill up, and she could breathe," she said.

An ambulance was called, but the woman declined further medical assistance. Instead, she gathered herself and finished her dinner.

The woman and her family could not be reached for an interview.

Saving lives while waiting tables is a typical part of working in a busy restaurant, especially during the holiday season, Scharfe said.

"People forget to take medication, or they drink too much on their medication, or they don't eat all day and their blood sugar drops," she said. "It does happen every couple days, but we are very professional."

Thinking back, Scharfe laughed at her instinctive behavior.

"I said, 'Take my tray! Take my tray!' " she said. "But then the rest was an instant reaction."

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City offices to close over holiday

For the second year, Newport Beach civic buildings, including libraries and the OASIS Senior Center, will be closed Friday through Dec. 31 to save money.

The City Hall complex, libraries, recreation programs and some other city programs are included in the closures. City offices will reopen Jan. 3.

Police, fire and marine operations will not be reduced, and trash collections will be unaffected this year. Parking lots and parking meter collections also will be running as usual, and street sweeping will occur except Friday, Dec. 30 and 31. Park patrol operations also will remain open.

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Parking citations in N.B. about to increase

Newport Beach is joining cities throughout the state in raising parking citation fines by $3 to comply with a state bill that was signed in October, according to a staff report that is part of the agenda for Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed California Senate Bill 857 on Oct. 19, which requires cities to add a $3 penalty to each parking citation. The city is required to deposit the funds on a monthly basis with the state treasurer for the Trial Court Trust Fund, which funds trial court operations.

In Newport Beach, parking fines range from $38 to $427 (for parking in handicapped zone), said Sgt. Steve Burdette of the Newport Beach Police Department.

"There are a multitude of violations and fines in between," he said.

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Citizens Academy needs applicants

Did you grow up loving a good game of cops and robbers? Have you still not recovered from the cancellation last spring of "Law & Order"?

The Newport Beach Police Department's Citizen Police Academy could be for you.

Each year, the department holds a Citizen Academy with room for about 30 adults who live or work in Newport Beach, and they are now accepting applications for the next class, which begins Jan. 27.

The classes are not meant to prepare citizens for real police academies, but rather to increase participants' understanding of how the Police Department operates. During the 12-week program, participants will meet the police chief, tour the station, take a ride-along, make simulated car stops, see demonstrations by the S.W.A.T. team and helicopter crews, as well as learn about crime scene investigation techniques and fingerprinting.

"I loved it all," said Corona del Mar resident Suzanne Schoen, who participated two years ago.

Schoen had studied criminal justice in college and said the classes were fascinating.

"My favorite part was the white collar crime when they would come in and talk about how they uncovered all these department store crimes," she said. "They were making Visa cards and American Express cards and people were buying them on EBay. It was really cool. And of course the S.W.A.T. And the K9. They did let us shoot guns, and I absolutely hated that, but I highly recommend anyone in Newport Beach taking the class."

Besides living or working in Newport Beach, you must be 21 years old and have no felony convictions, warrants or pending criminal cases.

For further information, call Kathy Lowe at (949) 644-3692.

"It's a lot of fun," Lowe said. "Everyone has a great time."

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