ST. HELENS, Ore. -- Two St. Helens men were rescued from the Columbia River Tuesday afternoon and one of them was critically injured, deputies said.

Witnesses called the Columbia County Sheriff's Office when they saw two men struggling to stay afloat at the north end of Sand Island just before 1:30 p.m., said Sheriff Jeff Dickerson.

Deputies and fire crews arrived on a patrol boat to find 24-year-old Kavaui Niau, who said he could no longer tread water. He was pulled onto the patrol boat as the crew spotted Kyle Syndier about 100 yards downstream.

Syndier was unable to grasp the rescue rope, Dickerson said. One of the firefighters jumped in the water and pulled Syndier onto the boat.

He was unconscious and suffering from a puncture wound, Dickerson said. Syndier was taken to a Portland hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. He was upgraded to good condition Tuesday evening.

Niau refused medical treatment.

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

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