Last Wednesday, Larch Corrections Center inmates Larry Bohn, Nelson Pettis and Jon Fowler were doing maintenance in a park with seven other inmates from the Washington state prison when they heard young boys screaming for help.
Three boys, aged 8, 10 and 16, had been tossed from their canoe when it capsized and were being dragged down a cold, fast-moving creek.
"We just thought it was some kids screaming until we seen their two heads bobbing in the water with the canoe upside down," Pettis, 37, told FOX 12. "They were coming down over flooded Salmon Creek. It was raging pretty fast."
Pettis dove into the water and let the current push him to a shallow area where he could stand.
"I don’t think I was thinking at all," Pettis told the Columbian. "I was just really concentrating on getting them to safety."
"They actually came to me right there," Pettis 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."
Bohn, 29, followed Pettis' lead and helped bring the scared boys to shore.
"They were saying thank you repeatedly. They just seemed really scared," Bohn said.
Fowler, 29, helped fire crews inflate their rescue boat and then helped carry one of the boys to an ambulance.
Pettis, Bohn, and all three boys were taking to a local hospital to be treated for hypothermia. No one suffered any serious injuries.
"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."
"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."
All three inmates are in prison for non-violent crimes.
A spokeswoman for the prison said that the three heroes will be honoured by prison officials for their good deed.
"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," spokeswoman Heather Simms told the Daily News. "We definitely want to do something else."