Three youngsters, 16, 10 and 8, accidentally flipped the kayak they were travelling in and found themselves floundering in the fast-moving Salmon Creek in southwest Washington State. The only people close enough to hear their cries for help were prisoners on a work detail.
The three inmates gave no thought to their own safety or to the fact that they were breaking the rules by leaping into the freezing water. They just knew the kids needed help.
It was around 12:30 p.m. when the kayak suddenly tossed the three brothers into the chilly waters of Salmon Creek. A work detail from Larch Corrections Center in Yacolt was nearby and heard the screaming children.
At first they thought it was just kids playing somewhere nearby according to inmate Nelson Pettis, 37. Then they saw two heads bobbing in the water and the overturned kayak. Realizing the creek was raging pretty quickly, Pettis dove into the water and let the current carry him downstream of the boys. He steadied himself and the boys were carried right up to where he was waiting but just then the current surged and took out his feet. He was able to grab the kids and get them to a tiny island in the center of the creek.
Inmate Larry Bohn, 29, leapt into the water and assisted Pettis in getting the kids to shore while inmate John Fowler, 29, helped inflate the rescue boat and then carried the 10 year old child to the ambulance.
Bohn described the children as being really frightened. He said they repeatedly thanked the three men.
The three brothers and two of the inmate rescuers were treated at a nearby hospital for hypothermia but there were no serious injuries reported.
All three inmates were incarcerated for non-violent crimes. They claimed they simply did what anyone else would have done in the same situation. Bohn is scheduled for release in June, Pettis in November and Fowler for May of 2014. All three will be receiving a letter of praise from the prison’s assistant secretary.
The father of the three children is looking for a way to express his gratitude to the three men. There may be a reunion between the boys and the inmates at the prison.