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, May 22 2013 6:04 PM EDT2013-05-22 22:04:40 GMT
MISSOURI CITY, TX (KPRC/CNN) - When a pregnant teacher in Texas collapsed, her coworkers rushed to help. The woman technically died, gave birth, and then was brought back to life. Erica Nigrelli, an EnglishMore >
A pregnant woman's heart stopped, and doctors performed an emergency c-section to rescue the baby and save the woman.More >
By Michael Martinez, CNN updated 3:23 PM EDT, Wed May 22, 2013STORY HIGHLIGHTSTerimy Miller puts her three small sons in the house closet as the tornado nearsBut she gets a feeling: "I just got toMore >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 6:13 PM EDT2013-05-22 22:13:31 GMT
Residents of a southern Overland Park neighborhood had feared a vicious killer was on the loose after a jogger was found dead, but his death has been ruled a suicide.Raheel Morani, 24, slashed his ownMore >
Residents of a southern Overland Park neighborhood had feared a vicious killer was on the loose after a jogger was found dead, but his death has been ruled a suicide.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:55 AM EDT2013-05-23 15:55:08 GMT
(RNN) - Dozens of Cleveland restaurants have pledged to give the man who rescued three Ohio women from captivity, free burgers for life. Charles Ramsey, the guy who famously stopped eating his Big MacMore >
More than a dozen of Cleveland restaurants have pledged to give the man who rescued three Ohio women from captivity, free burgers for life.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 9:09 AM EDT2013-05-23 13:09:22 GMT
It has been a difficult and long road to recovery for an 11-year-old victim of a hit-and-run. The girl's mother is making another plea to that driver to turn herself in. No one needs any medical trainingMore >
It has been a difficult and long road to recovery for an 11-year-old victim of a hit-and-run. The girl's mother is making another plea to the driver responsible to turn herself in.More >
Monday, May 20 2013 7:51 PM EDT2013-05-20 23:51:52 GMT
DONIPHAN, AR (KAIT) – A search effort is underway in Southeast Missouri. The Hartland Pit Stop in Doniphan apparently sold a $1 million Powerball ticket this past weekend, but the winner has yet to comeMore >
A Southeast Missouri woman wrapped up a big week by taking home a piece of the record $600 million Powerball jackpot. More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:43 AM EDT2013-05-23 15:43:24 GMT
Fallen officer's daughter graduates from kindergarten
Hundreds of Phoenix police officers showed their support for a fallen colleague by attending his daughter's kindergarten graduation in Anthem on Wednesday. Officer Daryl Raetz was killed in the lineMore >
Tatum Raetz, 5, graduated from kindergarten in Anthem Wednesday and hundreds of uniformed Phoenix police officers were there to show their support for the family.More >