ON THE OCEAN: A Soccer Player’s Save

“If it weren’t for J.C., that man would be dead"
Jean Carlos Barrientos’s heroism was hailed by a half-dozen members of East Hampton’s volunteer ocean rescue squad and by the some 600 attendees before the athletic awards dinner on June 6 began. Jack Graves

   Jean Carlos Barrientos, an East Hampton High School junior who was one of the stars on the boys soccer team that won the school’s first-ever county championship last fall, was hailed for another reason at the athletic awards dinner on June 6.
    Four days before, Barrientos, who is a cabana boy at the Driftwood ocean resort just west of Hither Hills State Park, had saved a 34-year-old Brooklyn man, Nicola Devito, from drowning.
    Seeing the man — who was not a guest at the Driftwood — waving his arms in distress, Barrientos had a fellow cabana boy alert with his “walkie-talkie” radio the resort’s superintendent, Perry Halburd, who was in the parking lot nearby, and Arianna Clarke, who was at the front desk, as he dashed into the rough surf with an inflatable rescue device. Clarke phoned 911, and Halburd, who is trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ran toward the beach.
    The device, however, did not inflate, necessitating a dash back up the beach to a supply shack where the 17-year-old, who later said he “was scared” — but not to the extent that he could not act quickly — retrieved a floatable “torpedo.”
    Halburd, who was questioned Saturday, estimated that Devito was “about 200 yards offshore, plus or minus, in rough water. . . . If it weren’t for J.C. he would have drowned for sure.”
    Barrientos said that when he got to Devito, “he was unconscious, his head was underwater.” Using a cross-chest carry — which he had learned as a 14-year-old when he had been a beach boy at the Amagansett Beach Association under John Ryan Sr., who oversees water safety and lifeguard training in East Hampton — he brought him onto the sandbar, “about 30 yards offshore,” where he was met by Halburd. Together, gripping Devito under each arm, they dragged him through waist to chest-high water to the beach.
    “We put him on his back,” said Halburd. “He had no pulse, he wasn’t breathing — he was dead.” Halburd began C.P.R., aided by a woman who Barrientos said “was either the man’s wife or his girlfriend.”
    Moments later, Randy Hoffman, an advanced emergency medical technician who captains the Amagansett Fire Department’s ambulance squad, carrying an E.K.G. machine with a built-in manual defibrillator and a bag valve oxygen delivery machine, continued C.P.R., through which a pulse was regained. The bag valve machine, which “squeezed air into him,” restored Devito’s breathing.
    “I didn’t shock him,” Hoffman, who owns the Machine Shop in the row of Skimhampton stores on Route 27 in East Hampton, said. “My machine is not automatic — I control it. I had the pads on him, but he wasn’t in a shockable rhythm. He had a pulse, so I didn’t have to shock him. . . . He got better and better as we drove to the hospital. He was very lucky. All the credit goes to the kid.”
    For his part, Barrientos said he was very thankful for the training he’d received as a 14 and 15-year-old from the elder Ryan, all of whose A.B.A. beach boys are required to be in swimming condition and are made (although they are too young to be certified as ocean lifeguards) to take the ocean lifeguard test for practice.
    When told J.C.’s mother, Emma Barrientos, who works at Bridgehampton National Bank, had reported her son as wondering what all the fuss was about, John Ryan Sr. said, “If it weren’t for J.C., that man would be dead. The ocean was rough that day [Sunday, June 3]. A couple of our ocean rescue guys had to struggle swimming from Indian Wells to Atlantic. I’m convinced that if he didn’t have the presence of mind to take that torpedo out with him — you don’t make rescues like this by yourself — one of them would have died.”
    “J.C. was in our junior lifeguard program when he was 14 and 15,” Ryan continued, “but after that he concentrated on soccer. I remember saying when I was in the bank in April to his mother — who was a student of mine once — that he should come out again and take ocean lifeguard training. . . . Well, guess who shows up for training at the Maidstone Club Tuesday — J.C.! Everybody applauded.”
    During a conversation Monday, Barrientos said he would take the ocean lifeguard test on Saturday at Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett. The elder Ryan said J.C. would be “one of about 30” prospective lifeguards there. It is to begin, he said, at 9:30, “and will probably go until noon.”
    And as for next fall, Barrientos said he and his soccer teammates were looking forward to “a really great season.”