Clark County, WA – Inmates saved three boys from drowning in frigid Washington waters on Wednesday afternoon, reports say. Local firefighters report that the inmates came to the rescue of three brothers who were thrown into the water when their canoe capsized.
The three brothers allegedly lost control of the canoe in the freezing and fast-moving water of the Salmon Creek. Their screams for help reached the ears of some inmates from Larch Corrections Center working nearby.
“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 reported to Fox12 News that he took off his jacket and dove into the frigid creek. He said that the cold water made it difficult to breath. The current was too strong for him to swim, so he planted his feet on the creek bottom to try to find his bearings.
“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.”
The group waited on a pile of wood debris in the creek until rescue crews arrived. While Pettis was in the river with two of the boys, another inmate helped one boy reach the shore.
Larry Bohn jumped into the water with Pettis. He then helped the 16-year-old brother get to shore. He 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 and safely brought the group back to shore. Jon Fowler, who also works with the inmate crew, said he helped the crew carry one of the brother to the shore.
The inmates made it safely to shore on their own. All three boys and two of the inmates were taken to a local hospital with mild hypothermia.
The three inmates and their work crew do 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 witnessed the scene unfold. “I tip my hat to them. It’s a great thing.”
“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.”
According to Larch Corrections Center, the inmates on the crew are serving time for non-violent crimes. Watch the video of the rescue here.