Three brothers, ages 8, 10 and 16 years old, were floating down Salmon Creek (Washington) in a kayak when the craft overturned near Salmon Creek Regional Park.

A work crew of 10 inmates from Larch Corrections Center east of Yacolt was doing park maintenance when they heard screams for help. The 10-year-old was clinging onto the kayak as it floated downriver while his 8-year-old brother held onto him.

Inmate Nelson Pettis, 37, was working along the river when he spotted the boys heading downstream. He threw off his coat and jumped into the water to get them. 

The current was strong and the water deep, so Pettis floated downriver until he was able to stand on his feet. He grabbed the boys as they floated by and helped them to a strainer (a pile of floating debris that builds up when water levels are high).

Inmate Larry Bohn, 29, got in water when he saw the 16-year-old heading downriver by himself. Together, they made it to the shore.

Bohn went back into the water and helped Pettis hoist the two boys onto the debris pile. Both inmates took off their shirts, wrung them out and wrapped them around the kids to keep them as warm as possible. The 8-year-old’s lips were blue.

Meanwhile, inmate Jon Fowler, 28, ran down to the river, through the brush and logs, and waited about 15 minutes for the rescue team to arrive. He helped them inflate their rescue boat. Two rescuers paddled out to the group with personal flotation devices. They brought back the two boys and then returned for the inmates. Fowler carried the 10-year-old out to the ambulance.

The current was moving at an estimated 25 to 30 mph, faster than usual for this time of year due to rain raising the water levels and water’s temperature was a chilling 45 degrees.
Blessed is the person who sees the need, 
recognizes the responsibility, 
and actively becomes the answer…

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