ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Eight workers have been honored for saving the lives of two young cousins who fell into the Mississippi River in St. Paul and were swept downstream by the rough current.

The U.S. Coast Guard awarded certificates of merit to four Union Pacific Railroad ironworkers and four Upper River Services employees during a recent ceremony, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. The St. Paul Fire Department and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also commended the eight workers who rescued 10-year-old Sammy Solomon and 14-year-old Kirdus Zelalem from the rain-swollen river on June 21.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Matt MacKillop said their heroic actions were remarkable given the high waters and hazardous conditions. Heavy upriver rains caused the river to swell close to flood levels.

Kirdus had gone into the river to help his cousin who slipped in at Raspberry Island.

The crew of ironworkers was working on St. Paul's Robert Street railroad lift bridge when they spotted Solomon struggling in the river current. Zelalem was nearby, clinging to one of the bridge's central support pillars.

Solomon floated between two barges and risked being pulled under, according to St. Paul Deputy Fire Chief Stacy Hohertz.

Upper River Services barge workers spotted him clinging to a log by the barge, and they steered a towboat near him. The barge workers were able to pull him out of the water, but Zelalem was still adrift.

The railroad workers commandeered a boat to rescue Zelalem, after the current had torn him from the pillar. The bridge tender threw a life ring down, and Zelalem caught hold of it. The railroad workers were able to row fast enough to reach Zelalem and hauled him inside the small boat.

"He was worried about his dad and his cousin. Mostly his cousin," said Sid Rieck, an ironworker.

Zelalem and Solomon both attended the recent ceremony for the eight men.

"I gave them a round of applause," Solomon said. "They deserve it."

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