Prison inmates dove into frigid water to save three boys after their canoe capsized on Salmon Creek Wednesday afternoon.
Firefighters said the three boys, who are brothers, were onboard the boat when they lost control in the extremely cold and fast-moving water.
It happened at 12:30 p.m. where the Klineline Bridge crosses Highway 99 in Hazel Dell, as the inmate crew from Larch Corrections Center was finishing their work for the day.
"We just thought it was some kids screaming until we seen their two heads bobbing in the water with the canoe upside down," said Nelson Pettis, a member of the crew. "They were coming down over flooded Salmon Creek. It was raging pretty fast."
Pettis said he took off his jacket and dove into the creek. He said the cold water made it difficult to breath and the current was too strong for him, let alone the children, to swim.
"I just let the current take me down until I could get to a spot where my feet hit ground and I tried to stay put. They actually came to me right there," said Pettis. "Right then, the current swept me from underneath my feet and I grabbed onto the kids and got them to a little island in the middle of the river."
They were able to get to a pile of wood debris in the creek, where they waited for rescue crews to arrive.
Larry Bohn, another member of the inmate crew, also jumped into the water. He helped the 16-year-old get to shore, then made his way down the creek to help Pettis with the younger children.
"They were really scared," said Bohn. "They kept telling us 'thank you, thank you' all over again."
Vancouver firefighters and a Clark County technical rescue team arrived, then safely brought the boys back to shore.
Jon Fowler, who also works on the inmate crew, said he helped the crew carry one of the brothers from the boat to shore.
The inmates made it to safety on their own.
All three boys and two of the inmates were taken to the hospital with mild hypothermia.
Their crew does not normally work in the Salmon Creek area. On Wednesday, they were filling in for another group.
"It's just good to see anyone from any background assisting another person out there and young kids out there, actually," said David Vincent, who was near the scene during the rescue operation. "I tip my hat to them. It's a great thing."
The three inmates are humble about their heroics.
"I think we did something that any good person would do. You see three helpless kids in a river, you help. That's what you do," said Fowler.
He later added, "Just cause we're incarcerated, doesn't mean we're bad people. We made some bad choices in our lives, but we're still, we're just like everybody else. We're just paying our debt for what we did wrong."
The members of the work crew are serving prison sentences for non-violent crimes, according to LCC staff.
Copyright 2013 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
Inmates swim to save boys stranded in Salmon CreekMore>>
Wednesday, June 19 2013 6:28 AM EDT2013-06-19 10:28:50 GMT
Cap'n Crunch may have a mutiny on his hands.A writer at foodbeast.com pointed out something fishy up the Cap'n's sleeve: Three stripes.According to the United States Navy, the rank of captain carries fourMore >
Cap'n Crunch may have a mutiny on his hands.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 9:23 AM EDT2013-06-18 13:23:30 GMT
A 5-year-old girl set up a lemonade stand across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound, and now the group is targeting her. Jayden Sink raised nearly $200 on Friday while she sold lemonadeMore >
A 5-year-old girl set up a lemonade stand across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound, and now the group is targeting her.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 8:33 PM EDT2013-06-19 00:33:34 GMT
Crews from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said they have been called to Bridgewater to investigate reports that a body has been found in the water.The search is being conductedMore >
Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Environmental Conservation Police said they are responding to reports that a body was found in Lake Lillinonah in Bridgewater late Tuesday morning.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 2:04 PM EDT2013-06-18 18:04:37 GMT
Rapper Lil Wayne is creating controversy over his new music video titled God Bless Amerika. In the video the rapper steps on the American flag several times. Lil' Wayne responded to outraged fansMore >
Rapper Lil Wayne is creating controversy over his new music video titled God Bless Amerika.More >