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St. Helens men plucked from river peril

Sheriff's Office and CRF&R personnel quick action credited for saving St. Helens mens' lives Tuesday


Columbia County Sheriff's Office deputies and Columbia River Fire and Rescue firefighters on Tuesday afternoon rushed to the north end of Sand Island in the Columbia River on a sheriff's patrol boat when witnesses called out to two swimmers in distress, according to a Sheriff's Office press release.

The men, who identified themselves as Kavaui Niau, 24, and Kyle Syndier, both of St. Helens, were pulled from the water at 1:26 p.m. after deputies found the pair floating helplessly downstream. Niau called out to Undersheriff Andy Moyer, Lt. Dustin Hald and firefighters Tom Moung and Nolan Gerety, saying he could no longer tread water. Approximately 100 yards downstream, Snyder was losing consciousness and going under, according to the release.

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

Moung jumped into the river and secured Syndier. Both were pulled back on board. Syndier, however was unconscious. He also had sustained a puncture wound, presumably from the wing dam, a man-made barrier that extends partway into the river and slows current near the banks, around which they had been swimming.

Niau refused additional medical attention after he was taken to shore.

Columbia River Fire and Rescue medics transported Syndier to Emanuel Hosptial in critical condition.

"This was a matter of seconds before both men would have been beyond our help," said Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson. "The quick action of our deputies and the firefighters from Columbia River Fire made the difference today."