"I thought I was going to drown. I was so happy to see that boat."
A Milton man, aged about 70, made those comments to a rescuer after the 6.5m boat in which he had been fishing overturned on the Taieri Mouth bar about 2.30pm yesterday.
He was one of four men — all wearing lifejackets — rescued after the incident, and one of two people taken to Dunedin Hospital by ambulance, in moderate condition.
Two other men, also believed to be from Milton, were helped by St John staff but did not require hospital treatment.
All had been brought ashore by 3.30pm.
After the first man reached the safety of the beach, where he was helped out of his wet clothes, given warm clothing and a survival blanket, he recalled unsuccessfully trying to swim ashore
He was wearing a lifejacket but in the bone-chilling cold water he thought he was about to die, until a jet ski arrived and he was helped back to the beach, north of Taieri Mouth.
Taieri Mouth resident and roofer Trevor Griffin, accompanied by friend and fellow roofer Jason Glendining, used his jet ski to rescue three of the men.
A Dunedin man who had earlier been fishing used an inflatable boat to rescue the other, most badly affected man, who was apparently also taken to hospital.
As Griffin completed the third rescue, his jet ski's fuel was running low, and the fuel alarm was beeping.
Although the sea was fairly calm, conditions were still tricky and the first rescued man had been too tired to climb on to the jet ski, which was initially knocked over.
The man then held on to the jet ski, Glendining held on to him and he was towed to safety.
"When you get off the adrenaline rush you can definitely feel worn out.
"You go into survival mode, whatever, you just want to help people.
"You've just got to be careful. You can end up in a lot of trouble yourself," Griffin said.
Otago harbourmaster Steve Rushbrook said the rescue operation had been co-ordinated by Coastguard Dunedin and the police.
The accident as the boat, returning from a fishing trip, had run aground on the bar, clearly highlighted the dangerous conditions there, he said.
There have been many previous mishaps and many rescues from incidents at the Taieri Mouth bar, including the rescue of four people on March 14 this year.
Griffin had been working in Dunedin and was driving back to Taieri Mouth along the coast and was nearby when he received a phone call from a local builder friend who had just seen the boat swamped by a wave on the bar.
Griffin had then used his cellphone to ring his partner, Kiri Fraser, and asked her to bring his jet ski immediately to the boat ramp.
That co-ordination had shaved crucial minutes from the rescue of the extremely tired swimmer.
"She had the jet ski waiting for me."
"That was a big bonus. The guy didn't have much longer to go."