When three brothers, 16, 10 and 8, flipped their kayak on a creek in southwest Washington state, the only people within earshot were from a prison work detail. According to the New York Daily News on Jan. 31, the inmates didn’t think twice; they just jumped in to save the boys from drowning in the freezing, fast-moving creek.
The boys were kayaking down the Salmon Creek around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday when their kayak flipped and tossed them in the water. Nearby was the work crew from Larch Corrections Center in Yacolt. The men heard the boys screaming for help.
"We just thought it was some kids screaming until we seen their two heads bobbing in the water with the canoe upside down," inmate Nelson Pettis, 37, told FOX 12. "They were coming down over flooded Salmon Creek. It was raging pretty fast."
Pettis dove into the water and rode the current to where he could get downstream from the boys and steady himself. They actually came to me right there," he told FOX 12. "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."
Another inmate, Larry Bohn, 29, jumped in and helped Pettis getting the boys to shore. John Fowler, 29, helped inflate the rescue boat and carried the 10-year-old to the ambulance.
"They were really scared," Bohn said. "They kept telling us 'Thank you, thank you' all over again."
The boys and two of the inmates were treated for hypothermia at a local hospital. No one involved suffered any serious injuries.
The inmates on the work crew were serving time for non-violent crimes. They said they just did what anyone in their situation would do.
"You see three helpless kids in a river, you help," Fowler told FOX 12. "Just because 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."
Bohn and Pettis are set to be released in June and November, while Fowler is scheduled for release in May 2014.
The three men will be getting a letter of praise from the assistant secretary of prisons. They are looking for a way to honor the inmates. "The boys' father wanted to do something for the guys up here, and there’s been talk about doing follow up with boys coming up here to be reunited with them," prison spokesperson Heather Simms said. "We definitely want to do something else."