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Published: September 09, 2008 12:08 am ShareThisPrintThis
'Thank you for saving my life'
By Bruno Matarazzo Jr.
Staff Writer

HAMILTON - Two Hamilton-Wenham High School sophomores on a break from a Catholic retreat Sunday in Gloucester jumped into action after hearing screams for help in the ocean.
James Brao and Alton Bynum, both 15-year-olds from Hamilton, spent almost an hour in the waters off Coffin's Beach battling strong rip currents as they rescued two fellow retreatgoers who had been enjoying the surf.
Shayne Pavenski, 15, recalls emerging from the beach struggling to walk after he was helped back to shore by James.
"When I saw (James) walking, I gave him a hug and said, 'Thank you for saving my life,'" he said.
James also thought they might not make it out of the water.
"I really thought Shayne might die. I didn't know how long he was going to keep up swimming," James said while interviewed with Alton after football practice yesterday. "I didn't know what would happen if he died, I figured I would go down with him." Alton rescued another teen he identified as Jason Mackey. Jason and his family could not be reached for comment. Alton said he guided Jason back to shore in a 45-minute ordeal against the rip currents.
Before Sunday's life-or-death drama unfolded, the four teens were on retreat with St. Paul's Church for their upcoming confirmation.
Around 1 p.m., Shayne recalls being out far from shore by himself, "because that's where the waves were."
When he realized how far he had gotten, he began swimming back to shore but wasn't getting anywhere.
"I tried swimming back but couldn't because the riptide was pulling me back," Shayne said.
He tried swimming sideways, but panic soon set in. He screamed for help for 10 minutes as waves crashed over his head and he swallowed water.
Gloucester police said Shayne's screams for help prompted others to go to his aid, including Sean Turpin, another teen. Coffin's Beach is private and is not staffed by lifeguards.
Alton said he and James were out about 300 yards from shore when they heard the screams for help.
Alton swam over to Jason and had him on his shoulders; together, they tried to swim back to shore. James, who was closer to Shayne, rushed over to him.
"I figured it would be a couple minutes of swimming back in," James said, "but I realized about 15 minutes later we got nowhere, maybe 10 yards."
That's when James and Alton realized they were trapped in a rip current. James said he started swimming sideways for about 10 to 15 minutes and got really tired.
He suggested floating on his back, but Shayne feared they would drown.
"I ended up laying on my back, and Shayne floated on his stomach," James said.
Once they were able to reach the ocean floor, they waded ashore. Shayne had trouble walking in and collapsed a few times.
Alton and Jason also reached the shore safely.
"I was exhausted, and Jason was, too. I had a big headache, and Jason puked a few times," Alton said.
Shayne, a student at North Shore Technical High School, was taken to Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester and released later that day. He said he's fine and thankful to James for rescuing him.
James was unfazed: "It turned out the best way it could have turned out."
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