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Good Samaritans pay the price for rescue gone wrong

BEIJING – Two teenage boys who attempted to rescue their friends from drowning in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have each agreed to pay 50,000 yuan ($8,150) for failing to pull them from the lake.

Although police did not charge them with a crime, Wu Bo and Liu Hai, both 18, agreed to pay the family of one of the victims in a settlement that is not uncommon in China, where there are no national "Good Samaritan" laws protecting people from criminal liability if they help someone in danger.

Li Qing and Chen Min, both 17, were holding hands and walking along the edge of Lotus Lake in Dazhou City on Sunday when one of the girls stumbled and slipped into the deep waters, pulling her friend in with her, Chinese media reported.

Wu, who was in the water when he heard the splash, immediately swam over and grabbed one of the girls' hands but she slipped from his grasp and quickly sank under the surface.

Liu, who was in the bathroom, ran out to help when he heard a scream. He dove into the lake but couldn't find the girls in the murky water.

Devastated over the drowning of their friends and facing societal pressure to pay some form of compensation, the teens agreed to the settlement just hours after the incident, the Chengdu Business Daily newspaper reported.

The case underscores continuing societal concerns in China over assisting people in medical emergencies or accidents. Without legal protections in place, many are reluctant to rush to the rescue for fear of being pressured into paying a settlement to the victim or the victim's family.

In recent years there has been a string of high profile incidents in which bystanders openly ignored victims of accidents. In one gruesome case in 2011, a two-year-old baby in Foshan, Guangdong Province, was run over by a car and then left to die as passersby ignored the crushed toddler.

Since then there have been calls for a national "Good Samaritan" law to be passed in China, but so far only a few cities on the mainland have pushed ahead with such legislation.

Police are still investigating the incident at the lake in Dazhou, and a lawyer who assisted the two teens told NBC News that the compensation has not yet been paid.

NBC News' Dalin Liu contributed to this report.