SALT LAKE CITY — Three foreign graduate students, who along with several others, rescued a motorcyclist from under a burning car in September, say they're surprised at the attention the Logan incident has gotten.

"We were pretty amazed at how the media covered it," said Abbass Sharif, a Utah State University doctoral student from southern Lebanon. In his war-torn country, helping others in need in similar situations is commonplace, Sharif added.

"When I was telling my family (about the incident), they were not surprised at all at what we did," Sharif said. "Society comes first, the individual second."

But in place of the accolades and attention rescuers have received, the three said they would most wish to return home to visit families, which student visa rules make difficult.

Monday, the Utah Senate honored the three students and five others who pushed a burning car on its side to rescue a motorcyclist, as well as 16 others who rescued a man and three young children from a car that slid off an icy roadway into the Logan River on Dec. 31.

The three students — besides Sharif include James Odei from Ghana and Anvar Suyundikov from Uzbekistan — study math and statistics at Utah State University.

Referring to them, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said, "I'm sure as you can tell, these people were not all born and raised in Cache Valley — we welcome them to Cache Valley — but it just shows you the feelings of human beings for human beings."

Due to a bystander's dramatic video of the fiery September crash in Logan, the incident was seen around the world. The video shows the rescuers pushing the car on its side to extract motorcyclist Brandon Wright after he laid down his bike and slid under a car trying to avoid a collision.

The eight rescuers appeared on national TV shows and were named "Heroes of the Year" by People Magazine, which gave them $10,000 each. The Ellen DeGeneres Show also gave the rescuers tickets for a Caribbean cruise.

But the graduate students have yet to take the cruise, because of student visa rules which require a lengthy and uncertain reapplication process even after brief visits abroad. Various officials are working to allow an exception so the three can go, the students said.

The students each donated their $10,000 to Primary Children's Hospital, rather than to charities in their own countries.

"People are people," Sharif explained. "It doesn't matter where they are. If they're in need, you help them." Because the money came as a result of media attention here, they decided to donate it to a cause here, he added.

Less likely than a cruise is the chance to return home to visit families whom they haven't seen for years.

Suyundikov and Sharif haven't seen their families for three years, Odei for four.

The second set of citizen-rescuers honored braved the freezing waters of the Logan River to pull a man, his two children and another young child from their overturned vehicle. The group somehow managed to flip the car over, and one of them shot out a window and used a knife to cut the occupants free. Others resuscitated two of the children who were unconscious.

E-mail: lbrubaker@desnews.com