Two young cousins are being hailed as heroes after rescuing a fisherman from drowning at a popular vacation spot in New Zealand.
According to Fairfax New Zealand News, Will White and Sergio Schuler, both 12, didn't hesitate to jump into rough water to save Vincent Shao when he was caught in a rip tide on Saturday at a beach in Bowentown.
"I thought I was going to die," Shao, a 32-year-old Auckland resident, told the news source.
Shao had set two crab pots on the beach when he suddenly lost his footing in waist-deep water. A rip dragged the helpless man out to sea. Although he's a competent swimmer, Shao tried to swim against the current and quickly grew fatigued. Within moments, he found himself struggling more than 300 feet from shore.
White and Schuler were playing in the surf on their first day of vacation when they spotted Shao struggling, flailing his arms and calling for help.
"We saw the guy struggling so we thought we needed to help him so we went out and tried to get him to come back in and sort of couldn't," Schuler told the New Zealand Herald.
"He was grabbing us trying to stay afloat," said White to Fairfax NZ News. "He was saying 'help', just all the time. We just kept our distance a bit and tried to encourage him to swim."
"When I almost gave up, the boy gave me hope," Shao added.
White -- who had four years of training with a lifesaving club -- stayed with Shao while his cousin swam back to the shore for help. Schuler then swam back to the pair as they moved slowly toward the shore.
"You can see the hope there and you will try your best to survive even though you are very tired. That's why I think the boy, Will, really helped. I want to say thank you to him. I'd say he has a bright future. He just stayed with me and told me what to do," Shao told the New Zealand Herald.
The boys were forced to drag Shao to the shore.
"We were trying to encourage him to come in," added Schuler. "But he was only just moving and the waves would hit him and he'd go under."
When the trio finally reached the beach, Shao walked a few steps then collapsed from exhaustion and started vomiting all the water he had swallowed, reported 3News.
"We slowly made our way back in to shore and he collapsed on the ground. Then we rolled him onto his side," White told the news source.
Shao then went into shock and lost consciousness.
An ambulance arrived and he was taken to a local hospital in unstable condition -- but was released and allowed to go home after a few hours.
Both boys will be nominated for the prestigious Surf Life Saving NZ National Rescue Of The Month award. Shao plans to return to Bowentown to personally thank White and Schuler.
"I definitely want to say something to them ... they are certainly heroes for me," he told the NZ Herald.