A New Zealand man who drowned trying to save his son and niece at an Australian beach refused help from rescuers, instructing them to help the children instead.
He's now being remembered by his partner and family as a big-hearted, selfless man that put his kids first.
"He sacrificed himself. He knew it was either him or the kids," his cousin Queenie Fa'alua told the Herald.
"There were people trying to help him and he pushed [them towards the kids]."
Steve Mote, a strong swimmer, wanted to go for one last dip at the beach in Wollongong, south of Sydney, after spending the afternoon fishing with his kids, his partner Fordene MacDonald said.
Before getting into the water, the New Zealand-born Samoan father-of-four said what would become his final words to his partner of five years.
"He said "I love you my love", and I repeated it back."
Between them, the couple has nine children, Mote's four sons, and MacDonald's five kids.
MacDonald waited under a gazebo while the family members went swimming.
It is understood that Mote and his 10-year-old son and niece were playing in shallow water at Woonona Beach when they were swept out to sea by a wave.
At the same time, bystanders, surf lifesavers, and members of the local boardriders club used jet skis, boards, and a chilly bin lid to help the group.
The kids were hauled to safety, but when the 41-year-old Mote was dragged back to shore he was unconscious. He died on the beach despite paramedics' best efforts to save him.
MacDonald told the Herald she knew something was wrong when she heard someone yell "float on your back."
"I heard my eldest son's voice."
She ran across rocks to get to the water.
She has poor vision and calls Mote "her eyes", which made running across the rocks even more challenging.
"That was the first time we'd ever been there. It was a vicious spot," she said, speaking about the beach.
When MacDonald got to a crowd of rescuers, people were trying to prop Mote up onto surfboards.
Some of the family's sons got involved in the rescue, trying to keep their father's head above the water.
MacDonald says Mote was a "mighty heavy" man, and one of the boys swam under to push off the seafloor to try to propel Mote upwards.
"They were punching his chest to resuscitate him in the water. The waves were coming over Stephen's head. There was one board on his left side and one board on his right side."
MacDonald, who was also in the water at this stage, was helped onto a surfboard and taken back into shore. She watched Mote being dragged across the sand.
Paramedics began CPR and used a defibrillator to try to resuscitate him.
"I knew he wasn't with us when we were out in the water. I wailed out for him."
Once MacDonald knew all the kids were accounted for, she returned her attention to Mote.
She sat at his feet as efforts to revive him continued.
"The lifeguards and the paramedics were phenomenal. They were awesome. They were buggered [from the CPR]. They did not stop."
Tangi preparations for the much-loved father, who was born in Lower Hutt, are underway now.
MacDonald's son Deno called Mote a great father, teacher, and a great listener.
He said he told Mote he wanted to go home once they had finished fishing but Mote wanted to go for a swim before they left.
"My last words to him were, 'hey Steve, we should leave now'. We'd just finished fishing. I had a feeling something might go wrong."
His cousin Fa'alua remembered him as a funny man who put others before himself.
"He was the one that got our family together. He understood us. He was our role model. Now, that he protected us, who do we look to next? He's left a legacy [that] we can continue because we learned so much from him. It's really raw and sad."
She said Mote's actions that day on the beach "shows you what kind of person he was."
A bystander, who grabbed a board and jumped in the water to help, later sent MacDonald a message, praising Mote's heroism and bravery.
"I wished I could've done more for Steve," the man said in the message.
MacDonald said the family had never been to that part of the beach before and were having "a beautiful time" before the accident.
She said she'll no longer look at the beach the same.
"I hate that place. We (went) there to relieve stress ... (now) his four sons don't have a dad, my sons don't have someone they can rely on."
A Go Fund Me page has been set up for the family.