17-Year-Old Pulls Drowning Man from Ocean, Volunteers Revive Him

Lifeguards and rescuers say near-drowning highlights need for lifeguards between Amagansett and Montauk.

Napeague, NY -- When 17-year-old Jean Carlos Barrientos heard screams coming from the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday afternoon, he sprang into action.

Admittedly scared, Barrientos remembered the training he had received in East Hampton's junior lifeguard: He told his friend to call 911 and he grabbed two flotation devices that were handy near the on Napeague, where he works as a cabana boy, and headed for the water.

There are no lifeguards stationed at the hotels along Napeague, where beach-goers swim at their own risk. Lifeguards and ocean rescuers say this near-drowning is another example of why a lifeguard station on the eight-mile stretch of ocean beach is necessary. There is no town lifeguards between in Amagansett and in Montauk (Hither Hills State Park is protected).

A device that's supposed to inflate when it hits the water, failed, so Barrientos quickly ditched it, carrying instead a red torpedo as he swam through the choppy water toward the drowning man, who he thinks got caught up in a rip current.

The victim, a 34-year-old from Brooklyn, was unconscious when Barrientos reached him. The rescuer locked the man in a chest-hold and carried him back to the sandbar, where he was met by Driftwood's superintendent Perry Halburd, who helped him get the man the rest of the way to shore.

Barrientos said the man wasn't breathing. He had no pulse. His eyes were rolled back and he was purple.

"I thought he was dead for sure," Barrientos said.

Halburd started chest compressions until East Hampton Town police arrived. Advanced emergency medical technician Randy Hoffman, a volunteer in the , arrived at about the same time in First Responder's vehicle. also arrived on scene.

The man still had no pulse and Hoffman, who carries a manual EKG/defibrillator, "bagged" the man to breath for him. The man started breathing on his own in the ambulance on the way to Southampton Hospital, even answering questions.

"This guy was really, really lucky," Hoffman said. The man was discharged on Monday.

John Ryan Sr., chairman of the East Hampton water safety committee, said the man is alive — and breathing on his own as of Thursday — because all the right things happened. The immediate call for help got advance emergency medical service there fast, and deployed the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad, and the initial CPR got the victim's heart started, which helps prevent brain damage, Ryan said.

"Even though I knew what to do, it was still scary for me," Barrientos, an junior said. "If I hadn't taken those classes, I would have been blank."

Barrientos surfs and is an athlete — he plays soccer and track at the high school. But, when he was 14, he passed the lifeguard test, despite being too young to receive the certificate.

Ryan had been after Barrientos to take the CPR class. After the save, Barrientos decided it was time and attended Tuesday's lifeguard, CPR class. He was met with a standing ovation, Ryan said.

A son of Emma and Julio Barrientos, JC, as he is known to friends, was also recognized at the Athletic Awards banquet on Wednesday for the heroic save, though he said the gravity of the situation still hasn't sunk in. "It still hasn't hit me yet. One of these days it will."

Ryan said that while Barrientos is a hero, a much bigger problem has been brought to the forefront and highlight the need for a protected town beach in Napeague.

He believes the resorts along Napeague need to implement certain water rescue procedures, such as making sure beach attendants have cellphones, first aid kits and flexible rescue tubes, like a Peterson Belt, accessible. "Remember the easiest part of any swimming rescue is getting to the victim – the hardest part is keeping them afloat. Don’t become another victim," he wrote in a four-point plan.

ViralGrain June 09, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Lets put our money where our mouths are. If someone knows how to create a legitimate scholarship fund for Jean Carlos Barrientos, that can assist him in perusing what ever goals he may have, please do so and make the community aware of it. He not just saved a life, in essence he gave life and it would be nice to be able to contribute somehow to his success other then just a pat on the back.
Carl R. Ulmer June 09, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Intelligent, careful, and thoughtful individuals can and do get into life threatening situations every day. It is relatively rare to have a young man like 17-year-old Jean Carlos Barrientos, who had the mental ability to initiate instantaneous response and did all the right things to counter the dangerous situation confronting him! Its very rare to get that immediate response. The near drowning victim must be very thankful that J.C. just happened to be there to save him.
S.B. Bonacker June 09, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Let's not forget that Driftwood employee Perry Halburd also assisted in pulling the victim from the water and giving him CPR compressions before the ambulance got there. He is just as much of a hero as Juan Carlos. They should both be honored by the Town!
Ehtownlocal June 09, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Ross MacKae, and Elba Pisano Fernandez you to are two of the most negative people I have heard,,,,,,, I would be proud as a Manger of a PRIVATE CO-OP, not a motel to congratulate the staff..JC is an outstanding young man as well as the other man that had done the chest compression that ultimately saved his life, as well as who ever called 911. I too feel very bad for that man, but he was not a guest at the property or affiliated with any of the owners. He was from what I understand from some of the emt’s there that he was parked in there lot where he did not belong...these employees are CPR certified and I really think mrs. funk should not only be proud of her staff but as well as herself....these young people are trained by her and instead of you being so negative u should congratulate her as well as there staff for a well done save!! I own a home on the water in the town of East Hampton and understand that we absolute need life guards. But why could the man not go to our State Parks like Hither Hills and swim. There are lifeguard there. He just put more lives in danger, not just his own!!!
PERRY HALBURD June 09, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Have you forgotten Perry Halburd? the second rescuer who sarted CPR to the police arrived.
PERRY HALBURD June 09, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Taylor K. Vecsey (Editor) June 09, 2012 at 09:00 PM
I think it would be a fantastic idea for the town to honor JC, Perry, the police officer, A-EMTs Randy Hoffman and Tom Field for all being apart of this save. Thank you for all your comments. I'm sure the town will take notice.
Ross MacKae June 09, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Anonymous person EHTOWNLOCAL ... I think that about sums it up. Again KUDOS for the MINOR CHILD who risked his own life to save an ADULT stranger in a life and death situation, regardless of weather the stranger was a: property owner, wealthy - affluent, foreigner, American, transient, homelessl, black, white or green person. This country needs more human beings and citizens like Jean Carlos Barrientos!
jimbarry1946 June 09, 2012 at 09:30 PM
JC is lucky. Some places would have fired him for leaving his job. Congrats to a great young man.
Sharon Marie Buckler June 09, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Thank you to jean Carlos for being brave enough to get in the water to help save his life, thank you to Perry for helping getting him to shore and starting CPR. Unfortunately we have rip tides and when people do not understand how to escape them they panic. The Kiwanis club of East Hampton and the Clamshell foundation have been putting postcards explaining riptides. We have put them at most of the motels and hotels in east Hampton and Montauk, and at town hall in eh as well as the satelite one in montauk . We even put them 7 eleven. We have printed 5000 of them And plan on continuously distributed them all summer long. They are English on one side and Spanish on the other. The Montauk Sun will have them printed in paper all summer long. I hope that people coming out find them and take them. Education is key. But please if you are thinking of swimming alone in the water, please use a beach with life guards. We have Free Ride a service that will pick you up from long term parking and bring to the beach for free! Use it! Be safe out there!
Ross MacKae June 09, 2012 at 09:44 PM
I agree. The PROFESSIONAL ADULTS should be honored by the community for doing their jobs well. They are admirable for their volunteer or choice of employment in areas which serve the community. Thank you both. The issue here is not their doing their jobs well. The issue here is a minor child who overcame his fear and placed his life in jeopardy going out into the treacherous water even though one of the floatation devices failed! ( I think his heroism is even more-so on point here as the fear in a young person would seem to be more severe than a reasoned adult) None-the-less, he continued out into the treacherous water and rescued the man single-handedly. It was very lucky for the victim that trained professionals were on the beach, not risking their lives, to do their jobs, to save the man. The Hero is JC. Don't diminish it. Please
Lynn June 09, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Ehtownlocal, Last time I checked the Ocean does not belong to anyone! You think others sound negative...you sound like a snob.
notdeadyet June 09, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I was caught in a rip current once, and it is a very scary feeling. I was an excellent swimmer, but could not get out of it because I did not know how to. I just kept trying to swim directly to shore, and kept getting pulled out further. That was in my teens, and if memory serves, there is a specific way to get out of them by swimming parallel to it. It seems the rip tide is on a diagonal to the shoreline, and you can follow it in to it's origin by swimming parallel to it? Maybe someone here can explain it better. Anyway.. Kudos to the young man, he deserves recognition for his selflessness and bravery. We need more like him in this world.
notdeadyet June 09, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Found the info on how to get out of a rip current. http://www.loving-long-island.com/rip-currents.html
Mark Petrynek June 09, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Jean Carlos and odf course, Perry Halbard are heros and the victim did drown and was resusciatated. Good training program to boot. Now, how about consideration for the problems that resort guests have to face !
Tim Walker June 10, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I am utterly floored by the lack of accolades on the part of Mr. John Ryan Sr., so deserved for Mr. Jean Carlos Barrientos. This young man recognized that a man was in danger of drowning, told someone to call for help as he dove into the surf and swam to the man. The man was out cold. I think that it makes it easier for the rescuer. Anyhow, John Ryan Sr, Chairman of the East Hampton Water Safety Committee, did not give Mr.Barrientos the recognition he so befittingly deserved. Great job Jean, May your life be filled with good things.
Ehtownlocal June 10, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Lynn, give me a definition of a snob....I have grown up out here and have raised my children while doing community service with our local community and i hold 2 jobs to pay my bill during the winter...my home is a very modest place which I am proud of which I bought with my husband who is a local fisherman..I only wish my children one day can stand tall and say that they saved another persons life, while not endangering them self or anyone else....I live off that ocean, and u are very wronge..the ocean belongs to everyone, but the stupidity of one mans action could of cost not only JC his life but everyone else involved..so u sound like a person that lives out here maybe 5 months out of the year and eats the fish my family catches from the ocean that belongs to no one...go back to the rental u came from
Lifer June 10, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Heroism! JC and Perry! Correction in the article. Lifeguards are stationed at Hither Hills which is a mile and a half east of the Driftwood. We have, over the past three decades, responded to rescues from various resorts east and west of us. We have assisted EH volunteer rescue teams at times and, in fact, have EH volunteers on the crew. Maybe more collaboration between state and town could increase response time along this stretch. Good luck!
Taylor K. Vecsey (Editor) June 10, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Sorry about that. I've corrected.
Michelle Del Giorno June 10, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Incredible bravery by all involved in this rescue!
Lynn June 10, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Ehtownlocal, Sorry to disappoint you but I'm not a "renter". Snob - Someone who believes that some people are inherently inferior to him or her. Yep! How dare that man for drowning in THAT part of the ocean. Not only are you a snob, but a heartless one at that. By the way, I am a Vegan so I do not eat your fish!
Lynn June 10, 2012 at 02:51 AM
ViralGrain, have you ever thought that maybe the people that are visiting have no Idea that the ocean is not as calming and soothing as it seems, and that it could swallow you up without any warning.
Lynn June 10, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Maybe they wanted to tell him in person. Not all people are "computer connected".
Lynn June 10, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Mr Carl R. Ulmer, you said everything that needs to be said, very simply and elegantly.
Lynn June 10, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Fantastic! When in my late 20's I went to Daytona Beach, and waded in the water up just past my knees and all of a sudden I could not get back to shore. Someone had to come and get me. The ocean is so calming some people just don't know.
notdeadyet June 10, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Here is a link that shows actual photos of what rip currents look like, so swimmers can avoid them. It also expalins how they work, and how to swim out of them. I think ALL beaches should post the information at the entry to every beach and on every bath house door, so people can keep from being drowned due to ignorance of these currents. The photos of the rip currents explain it all easily. I got caught in once once, and didn't know how to get out of it........nearly drowned due to tiring from fighting it. http://www.loving-long-island.com/rip-currents.html
Jeannine Ryan June 10, 2012 at 07:39 PM
To Tim Walker My father John Ryan Sr started the jr lifeguard program, employed JC at the amagansett beach association, trained him for the ocean test which he took when he was 14 yrs old, and sings JC's praises. JC was honored by the EH Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad (which John Ryan Sr started) at the High school Varsity Sports Awards in front of all of his peers and their families. JC recoeved a standing ovation. John Ryan Sr spoke to JC and his family personally after his heroic rescue. John Ryan Sr is currently involved in the ocean training program which JC is attending M-F 3:30 to 5:30. JC was recognized at this training program for his heroic efforts. Just because the article didn't quote John Ryan senior as having praised JC doesn't mean it didn't happen. If you knew anything about John Ryan Sr and the work he has done to waterproof this community you would never make such an ignorant comment.
Evelyn O'Doherty June 11, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Bravo, Jeannine! Knowing JR, Sr. from childhood, and witnessing him work tirelessly, year after year, to inform and protect the people in EH about rip currents, dangerous waters and water safety, most local townspeople would never doubt the validity of JR Sr.s appreciation in this effort. His actions are an integral part of this story.
mike June 12, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Wow, I can't believe the bickering that goes on here. A wonderful story with SEVERAL heroes. Yes, Ross, the people on the beach are heroes. Just because they didn't go into the water does not take away from that they did. That is why a plan is called a plan- all avenues are covered. I agree that J.C. is the main hero of the story as he should be. But to down play what Perry did is not fair. This is a "feel good story" and yet to see all this bickering is really discouraging. Someone mentioned setting up a scholarship fund- great idea! And another mentioned that this article shines a light on an issue that needs to be addressed! Good things come from this. Those who want to fight and bicker- go ahead. The rest of us will see the good in this. Congrats to JC, Perry, and all the others who saved a life that day.
Ross MacKae June 12, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Hello Mike, Thank you. I appreciate your politically correct critique of my comments. Please allow me to clarify briefly: I am actually not attempting to bicker. I AM attempting to keep the focus on the focus point of the article, which is a valiant young man. I differ with you in that I don't believe that it is a good thing nor good behavior from adults to try to shine the light on themselves or their friends in an attempt to hitch on to the amazing deeds of JC. I realize that I may have offended friends of yours, and for that I am truly sorry. I do wish that people would leave their own stardom at the door and spend this time to focus on JC. If in my attempt to keep the focus on the hero of the day has in some way made me one of those taking the spotlight, then I again must apologize. Please KEEP the focus on JC. Not on me, not on your friends, not on local clubs, etc. There was no "Plan" when JC was confronted with this situation, if anything, the "plan" failed, as the floatation devise failed to inflate. It was again the heroism of this young man who in spite of the failure of all preparation, shrugged aside his fear and saved the life of a stranger. That is where I am keeping my focus. I pray that everyone else does as well.


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