A visiting French athlete who is here for the Auckland Marathon has rescued two children who almost drowned in the Manukau Harbour at the weekend.
Residents at Cornwallis on the northern side of the harbour say they want the young female athlete's heroism to be recognised, but they have lost a slip of paper on which she wrote her name and email address.
"She jumped from the end of the wharf and held on to them until another lady got to them in a dinghy," one resident said.
"The young woman who jumped in to save them is a firefighter. Her name is Marie and she's here to do the Auckland Marathon. She's French. That's all we know."
The two children, a girl aged about 6 and a boy aged 8 or 9, were believed to be from the Dargaville area and were in Auckland with relatives for the school holidays.
Another resident, John Glen, said: "If this French woman wasn't there, they would have been a goner."
Glen said he and his wife, who live near the beach, heard screaming just before 5.30pm on Saturday.
"We saw two children bobbing in the water and they were quickly drifting out to sea," he said.
"A French lady got in the water and started swimming towards the boy who was being pulled furthest by the outgoing tide. She then returned with the boy inshore towards the girl who was in the most difficulty. They were quite separate from each other."
Another neighbour, who declined to be named, rowed a dinghy out to help and said the children had jumped off the wharf wearing only underpants and were very cold when she got to them.
"It was quite cold. It was an outgoing tide. They were being swept out into the harbour," she said.
"The little girl was in a bad way, she was vomiting seawater.
"The boy was in a state of shock but he seemed to be aware of what was going on."
She reached them about 200m from the beach and about 10 to 15 minutes after the French athlete had jumped in to save them.
"When I got to the girl [the French athlete], she said, 'I've got no strength left'. She was holding up the two children and trying to swim at the same time," the resident said.
"She was a very, very courageous girl. She could have drowned herself."
She got the two children into the dinghy while the French woman swam to shore. A group of neighbours rushed to wrap the children in blankets.
"We wrapped the boy in blankets. He was very white," Glen said. "The French woman took the girl in the house and sat her in the shower to warm her up. We thought she might have had hypothermia."
The other neighbour went back to the wharf to collect the French woman's backpack, which she had left when she saw the children in trouble.
"She was just looking, admiring the scenery, when she saw the children were in trouble in the water," the resident said.
"She left her backpack with all her worldly goods in it, her passport and everything else."
Glen said he and his wife gave the woman some dry clothes and asked her to write down her name and email address so they could give a story to the local Huia newspaper, but now they can't find the piece of paper she wrote on.
The children were taken to Starship Hospital. A spokeswoman for the hospital said: "We received two patients in relation to this incident. One has been discharged and the other is stable."
The ASB Auckland Marathon will take place on Sunday October 20.