BONNERS FERRY, Idaho — A pair of North Idaho heroes are being praised for their life-saving actions on the Fourth of July by the Boundary County Sheriff.
"I think they truly intervened and potentially saved a life during this incident," said Sheriff David Kramer.
Interestingly enough, however, Kramer's heroes are multiple years his junior.
This week, Kramer made brothers William Johnson, 14, and Brennan Johnson, 11, honorary members of Boundary County's search and rescue squad after saving the life of a 9-year-old boy last week.
According to Kramer, the boy, who has autism, was separated from his family during Bonners Ferry's community Fourth of July fireworks event at the Boundary County fairgrounds. Event organizers halted the evening's fireworks show and issued a plea to members of the crowd, asking them to help locate the boy.
With their mother's permission, the Johnson brothers started combing the area for the child.
Their efforts eventually lead them across Riverside Street and towards an embankment overlooking Kootenay River. There, Kramer said that William and Brennan spotted the boy swimming in the river.
Without hesitating, the brothers jumped in after the 9-year-old.
"The brothers helped get him to the shore. Then he kind of broke free from them and started to go back out into the river," Kramer said, adding that the brothers said the boy was screaming and flailing his arms as they tried to help.
Eventually, William held on to the child while Brennan ran to get help.
Coincidentally, a nearby adult at that moment spotted the commotion and called authorities. The nine-year-old was eventually reunited with his family.
"They're just considered heroes to me," Kramer said.
Kramer, who's a veteran member of Boundary County's search and rescue dive team, noted that the Kootenay River can be deceptively cold and fast moving at times. If the Johnson brothers didn't swim after the child, the boy could have been in grave danger.
"Like a lot of our youth, they're outstanding," he said.
Priscilla Johnson, the brothers' mother, said she felt honored by community members praising her boys.
"I was just pretty darn proud," she said. "I had no idea they were down by the river."
Earlier this week, Kramer presented awards to William and Brennan and in addition to their honorary search and rescue team titles. A ride in the department's rescue watercraft followed.
"I would anticipate we'll be seeing these boys again in some role as a first responder," said a proud Kramer.