Men honored for heroism after rescuing boys in Mississippi River

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The men who have been hailed as heroes were honored Monday for saving two boys from the Mississippi river.

The U.S. Coast Guard recognized the bravery of eight people whose quick-thinking helped make the rescue a success.

A 10-year-old year shares his gratitude, knowing the stretch of the Mississippi River in St. Paul is where he nearly lost his life - along with his 14-year-old cousin who tried to save him.

“When he was floating away, I thought I could get him, and when I looked back we were several meters away," 14-year-old Kidus Zelalem said.

Back in June, the two were on the edge of Raspberry Island when Sammy slipped in. Kidus went after him, and both were whisked away in the then-swollen river.

If it wasn’t for the actions of the eight men, there’s a very good chance that the boys wouldn’t be alive today.

In a ceremony at Upper River Services, a St. Paul shipyard, the eight men who pulled the boys out were honored by the St. Paul fire department and the DNR. They were also given certificates of merit from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Four of the rescuers work for Union Pacific. When they noticed the boys on the water, they took a boat from the marina - but couldn’t start it. So, they rowed it to the 14-year-old, who was clinging to a bridge pillar.

“You can’t just let them be there; you have to try something or do anything to help them,” said Sidney Reick.

The other four from Upper River Services took their own tow boat to find the 10-year-old, who was hanging into a log under the sloped hull of a barge.

“We’re just glad that on this occasion we were in the right place at the right time and happened to have the right equipment to get to them,” Lee Nelson said.