Grant Huggins was enjoying a few beers with friends during a peaceful Central Coast holiday, when he noticed a commotion. Right in front of his accommodation, a motorbike rider sped off the end of a nearby jetty and straight into Patonga Creek.
“At first we just thought it was a kid having some fun,” Mr Huggins said.
“But no one came out of the water.”
Mr Huggins, his wife and the couple they were staying with raced down to the waters edge.
“There was a body laying face down and just some bubbles coming out of the water,” he said.
“I just dove straight in.”
The Marks Point resident, who is also a member of the Swansea Belmont Surf Lifesaving Club, managed to get the man out of the water and together the group kept him alive until emergency crews arrived.
This heroic effort earned Mr Huggins a Royal Life Saving Society Australia (NSW) commendation award. He received the honour at Government House in Sydney on Tuesday, presented by Governor of NSW David Hurley.
High Commendations were awarded to Mr Huggins because of his selfless actions, community spirit and helping to save another person’s life.
“I was a lot more nervous receiving the award then when it [the rescue] was actually happening,” he said.
Since the rescue in February, 2014, Mr Huggins has heard from the man he pulled from the water.
“He called and he told me he is doing much better,” he said.
Other recipients included Senior Constable Mitchell Parker who was recognised for his bravery and risking his own life to help save a farmer. He was rostered for duty in Dungog as a single unit when he responded to a report that a man had fallen fully clothed from a small dinghy into the icy water of a dam.
The farmer, Bob Watkins, had been struggling to stay afloat holding onto the upturned dinghy for approximately 25 minutes.
“When I got the call I was told there was a first gate, a second gate and if you go through the fourth gate you've gone too far,” Snr Const Parker told Fairfax Media.
“In the end I could see the dam and just had to ram the police truck through a fence.”
Without any regard for his personal safety he stripped off his clothing and entered the icy water.
The water temperature was about eight degrees Celsius and the man was suffering from both the effects of hypothermia and exhaustion.
The officer swam the patient and dinghy to the edge of the dam and dragged Mr Watkins out of the water in a semi-conscious state. He was taken to John Hunter Hospital where he made a full recovery.