2 boys rescue struggling swimmer in Missouri River

July 10, 2012 - 1:36 PM
Missouri River Rescue

Jacob Vidal, 14, right, and J.T. Whitaker, 10, pose for a photograph on July 9, 2012 in Great Falls, Mont. The boys used their paddle boards to reach a man who was drowning in the Missouri River and pulled him to shore on July 8, 2012. (AP Photo/The Great Falls Tribune, Kimball Bennion) NO SALES

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Two Montana boys on paddle boards rescued a man who was struggling in the current of the Missouri River near Great Falls.

Daniel Chapman, 20, said he and a female friend were wading in the river Sunday when he entered deep water and was pulled down by an undercurrent.

On the shore, Henry Vidal, his 14-year-old-son Jacob and 10-year-old J.T. Whitaker spotted Chapman struggling. He was yelling that he couldn't swim, Henry Vidal said.

"I looked at Jake and said: 'Go out and get them,'" Henry Vidal told the Great Falls Tribune (http://bit.ly/NdepmQ).

Jacob and J.T. were wearing life vests and grabbed their stand-up paddle boards, which look like heavy surf boards and are propelled by a long paddle. They reached Chapman, who by then was floating face down in the water.

With the help of Chapman's friend, the boys lifted him up onto one of the boards and took him to shore.

"If he hadn't been there, I wouldn't have made it," Chapman said of Jacob.

J.T. and Jacob said it was a scary few minutes as they paddled out to help.

"We thought they were joking at first, and then we looked and saw he was actually drowning," J.T. said. "I was scared."

Jacob's father had warned the boys to be careful because a man had drowned in that same area on June 26.

Chapman said he didn't get a chance to thank the boys on Sunday. On Monday, he called Jacob's father and asked him to tell his son thanks.

"All I can say is thank you and thank you again," Chapman said. "I could never thank him enough for that."