Rescuers reach swimmers in nick of time on Columbia River - KPTV - FOX 12

Rescuers reach swimmers in nick of time on Columbia River

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ST. HELENS, OR (KPTV) -

Four people were rescued in two separate close calls on the Columbia River on Tuesday.

The rescues happened near the same spot just north of Sand Island in St. Helens.

Around 1:30 p.m., deputies from the Columbia County Sheriff's Office and firefighters from Columbia Fire and Rescue rushed to save two men who got stuck in the current and began to float helplessly downstream.

Rescuers quickly pulled one man on board the sheriff's patrol boat, and sped off to rescue the second man, who was unresponsive and unable to grasp the rescue rope.

Firefighter Tommy Moung then reportedly jumped into the river to save him.

"I was just trying to hold on to him, he was unconscious at the time, so it was a lot of dead weight, and even though you're in the water, it's still tugging on you a bit, so I was just trying to hold on to the rope with my right hand, and get us both back to the boat," said Moung.

Both men are expected to be just fine, but one remained at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in good condition Tuesday night.

"This was a matter of seconds before both men would have been beyond our help," said Sheriff Jeff Dickerson.

Then, just before 6:30 pm, two teens were swept up in the current near the exact same spot North of Sand Island. They couldn't control their inflatable raft.

The two boys were in the path of a barge in the middle of the Columbia shipping channel, but said they couldn't paddle out of harm's way because of the waves.

"We saw the barge coming, and the waves were big, they weren't tipping us over, but they were getting us good," said 18-year-old Garrett Bennett.

Both teens were uninjured, and said they are grateful for the first responders who rushed to save them.

FOX 12 has learned the group of first responders who responded to both calls normally never go out on the water, but the county's marine patrol had the day off, so they were next in line.

"It's always good when we can make difference, I guess it's a cliché in fire service, but it's days like today that it's true," said Moung.

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