A teenager is shrugging off the title of hero after he saved the life of an elderly whitebaiter who fell into a coma and slipped into the river last week.

Len Booth of Temuka was whitebaiting at the Hokitika River boat ramp when he fell into a diabetic coma and ended up facedown in the water.

Fortunately 13-year-old Cade McInnes had taken a break from his own whitebaiting and was heading over to talk to Mr Booth while waiting for his fish and chip order.

"I looked down from the stopbank and saw him face down in the water. My instincts took over and I ran down and pulled his head out of the water."


Mr Booth was unconscious and unresponsive when Cade reached him.

"I wasn't scared. I just wanted to help him."

Cade kept the man's head above water and managed to call for help, attracting the attention of nearby whitebaiters and walkers.

"I was there in the water with him for a few minutes before everyone else arrived. It was quite rough with waves and everything."

One of those walking past was Bruce Watson, who initially thought somebody was waving out to their dog.

"Then we realised that they were waving to get our attention. We shot down to help Cade out, waves were crashing all around him.

"Without Cade, it's fair to say that Len wouldn't be here today."

Once medical teams arrived at the river Cade quietly left the scene and went back to his whitebaiting without saying a word to anybody about the ordeal.

It was not until his family sat down for dinner later that night when he mentioned the events of the day - completely surprising his family who had no idea about the near drowning.

"Maybe I'm a hero, but I don't really think so. I was just doing what anybody would do."

Mr Booth said both he and his wife Dot were "very, very appreciative" of Cade.

"We are very thankful to him of course. My wife got quite a shock."

He had a team of "investigators" working to track down Cade, as he was unaware of who pulled him out of the river until yesterday.

"When they got us a name yesterday we rang him straight up to say thank you and organise a gift for him."

The couple also wanted to pass their thanks on to Mr Watson and his wife Claudia Landis who went "above and beyond" to help the pair.

"They were also really great, loading the car for Len and looking after me. They need to be acknowledged too," Mrs Booth said.

Mr Booth has since made a full recovery. He admitted he was "probably a bit past" whitebaiting now.

- Hokitika Guardian