Two teenage girls remain humble today despite being labelled heroes after they helped rescue a man who almost drowned in Wellington Harbour last night.
Cousins Kelly McKay, 15, and Payge Olds, 16, were with a groups of friends near Burdan's Gate in Eastbourne about 10.30pm yesterday when they heard a man had got into trouble in the water nearby.
"This man came running over saying someone is drowning and he couldn't get in the water because he is not a confident swimmer," Kelly said.
She said the whole group then rushed 300m down the beach, before her cousin jumped into the water and swam between 70-80m out to sea to rescue the drowning man.
Payge said although she no longer took swimming lessons, she soon realised if she did not help, the man would not survive.
"No one else was jumping in so I just thought, you know what, I am just going to step up and do it because we just need to help this guy before it's too late," Payge said.
She said two men, who were on rocks near the water, guided her to the drowning man by shining lights on the water.
When she eventually reached the man he was completely submerged, and she could just make out the top of his head.
"I just turned him over so his head was out of the water and then tried my best to get him back to shore," she said. "He was so much bigger than me, it was really hard to lift him."
Payge said she began to panic, so she called out to shore and two men, aged 25 and 19, swam out to help her.
"They helped me bring him back. I was just freaking out that I wasn't going to be able to get him over, I was screaming and yelling and almost in tears."
When the man was eventually pulled to shore, Kelly performed CPR before emergency services arrived and took the man to hospital.
Payge said to be labelled a hero was an "over-exaggeration".
"We are just average girls - we are just doing what we can to help the world be a better place."
Kelly said: "I feel proud for doing what I did but I wouldn't class myself as a hero."
This morning, Senior Sergeant Andre Kowalczyk said the actions of those involved in rescuing the man were "extremely brave".
"They did an excellent job in very difficult circumstances and their efforts to enter the water to save this man's life were exceptional."
This afternoon, the man was in a critical condition in Hutt Hospital's intensive care unit.
His identity was unknown, and he was not carrying any form of identification.
Police were working to identify the man, and described him as Indian, aged in his mid-20s to mid-30s. He was wearing a maroon coloured, short-sleeved polo shirt, and a pair of black lightweight trousers.
Anyone who knew the identity of the man was asked to contact Lower Hutt police on 04 560 2600.