The following post originally appeared on the Prison Fellowship blog (a/k/a, my day job). Check it out sometime!
On January 30, three young brothers were canoeing the Salmon Creek in Washington state. The river current was strong that day, swollen by a week’s worth of rain, and the boys found themselves unable to control their small craft in the rushing water. The boat capsized, sending the three boys—the youngest of which was eight—into the icy cold water.
On shore, Nelson Pettis heard the screams of help from the frightened youngsters. He quickly scanned the creek, and saw three heads bobbing in the water. In a split second, he chose to put himself at risk, diving into the rapids in an attempt to save the boys. Soon, two other men—Larry Bohn and Jon Fowler—joined Pettis in the creek. Fighting the current, they were able to direct the boys to dry land, dodging fast-moving debris as they made their way to shore.
The three men are rightly being hailed as heroes who risked life and limb to save the lives of boys they had never met. And yet, the most interesting part of the story might be why these heroes were in the vicinity of the creek in the first place.
As fate would have it, Pettis, Bohn, and Fowler were performing maintenance work at a nearby park at the time of the capsizing, members of a work release program from the nearby Larch Correctional Center.