Rene R. Charest saved Roland J. Collins from drowning, Lowell, Massachusetts, March 31, 1962. When the raft on which he and his two older brothers were riding capsized and was torn apart by the swift current of the Merrimack River, Roland, 13, held to an oil drum from the raft and was carried downstream in the very cold water. One brother swam to the bank, while the other clung to some bushes, which projected above the water. Charest, 23, bakery salesman, removed only his jacket and shoes, entered the water, and started to swim after Roland. The swift current forced him to turn back, and he reached the bank after swimming more than 400 feet. Charest then drove in his truck alongside the river for about a half a mile in order to get ahead of Roland. Although tired and somewhat numb from his previous efforts, he re-entered the water. In a current of three m.p.h. Charest swam 275 feet from the bank and in water deep intercepted Roland, who had been holding to the drum with difficulty and several times had been submerged briefly. Roland put his arms over Charest’s shoulders from behind and held to his shirt. He aided somewhat by kicking as Charest towed him toward the bank, pushing aside several pieces of ice. Tiring rapidly and forced downstream by the current, Charest towed Roland more than 600 feet before he reached the bank, where others aided them from the water. Meanwhile a rescue squad in a boat had rescued Roland’s brother. Roland and Charest, both near exhaustion, were treated at a hospital for shock and exposure. They recovered.
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