When Marlborough Boys' College head boy Angus Pauley saw a young girl being swept away by a flooded Blenheim river this morning, he knew what he had to do.
He told his mum to stop the car, and he ran to the High St bridge and shouted to the girl in the raging Taylor River below if she was okay.
"She just yelled back, 'I need my mum'," the 17-year-old told Newstalk ZB, hours after his miraculous river rescue where police have praised his brave actions for saving the 12-year-old girl's life.
Mr Pauley ran back to his mother, Helen, and told her the girl needed rescuing. He knew his mum would phone emergency services.
He then ran to the swollen river's edge and stripped down to his undies.
The river was moving so swiftly that as Mr Pauley ran alongside the girl, they were moving at the same speed, he said.
When she disappeared under the freezing, murky water he knew he had to dive in after her. He admits being "reasonably timid" about jumping in with nobody else around.
But then local multisport champion Jeremy McKenzie arrived on the scene.
"He ended up running down the bank next to me and I said to him, 'If I go in, will you be able to help me?' and he gave me the nod," Mr Pauley said.
He dived in and swam to the girl who was swallowing a lot of water and screaming.
"She was really brave, and I lifted her up and made sure she could breathe," Mr Pauley said.
He dragged her over to the riverside where Mr McKenzie was. The three tried to get out of the river but the fast-flowing current swept them all away.
The men managed to get the girl onto the bank where they carried her up to the roadside where Mr Pauley says, police took control.
The "very cold" girl was taken to Wairau Hospital in Blenheim where she was treated for hypothermia but was soon discharged. Mr Pauley was also treated for what he says was mild hypothermia, "but nothing serious".
The girl had been walking to school about 8.45am when she got into difficulties.
Mr Pauley was pleased to be able to meet her parents this afternoon and tell them a bit of what happened, and say how brave she had been.
"They were very grateful, but in all honesty I think anybody else that was in the same position would have done the same thing," he said.
"For a girl who was in a full school uniform and a schoolbag she was doing so well to keep herself up, I was really proud of her."
Senior Sergeant Dan Mattison said the quick actions of Mr Pauley and Mr McKenzie had saved the girl's life.
Her parents Luke McIsaac and Katie Breeme, did not want their daughter named in the media.