Inman Valley man Ben McKenzie received a Commendation for Brave Conduct for the rescue of two boys from a rip at the Murray Mouth in January, 2019.
Ben is recognised at the Australian Bravery Awards.
On January 27, 2019, Ben McKenzie and a friend Lee Dobson were fishing at the Murray Mouth when they heard a woman screaming that two boys were drowning after being swept away in a strong rip.
Ben immediately dove into the water, and swam over to one of the boys who had been swept 20 metres out in the middle of the Mouth and was struggling in the water.
After getting a hold of the first boy, he reached down and felt for the second boy who was clinging onto the first boy's ankle.
He quickly dove down into the water and pulled the second boy up above the water. Lee Dobson also entered the water and assisted in keeping the distressed boys afloat.
Both men struggled to stay afloat in the surging rip. Fortunately a surfer arrived on a body board to assist and another male on a jet-ski also arrived and towed the exhausted group to the safety of the shore.
Ben acted quickly, but said it was a close call.
"I got out there and thought one of the boys was gone," he said.
"As I reached the first boy, I could just feel something under the water.
"I dove down and managed to pull the drowning boy above the water. He had just barely been clinging on to his friend's leg as the water dragged him away. A split second later and he would have been gone."
Lee Dobson followed his mate into the water and was able to grab hold of one boy, while Ben himself struggled to stay afloat. Ben said that without the help of others, he'd probably have drowned along with the boys.
"There's no way I could have done it without the help. Lee was able to take the pressure off me and another man followed on a body board and was able to keep us afloat.
"Thankfully a fourth bloke then made it out to us on a jet ski and was able to tow us in. Without him it would have been a huge battle to get the boys in, even with the assistance of the body board."
The jet ski rider who assisted in the rescue was Mark Tiss.
Both boys reached the shore conscious, however the one who spent a significant amount of time underwater continued to vomit up water after being rescued.
Both Ben and Lee said they were severely shaken up by the incident, which could have easily ended in three or more deaths.
"I just thought of my kids when I saw what was happening and my first instinct was to get in there and try to save them," said Ben.
"They just kept saying thank you, thank you as we dragged them in. It's such a dangerous area and we couldn't believe the boys had been left on their own," Ben said.
"People really need to be aware of the dangers, because it only takes a split second for something terrible to happen."
Local police attended the scene following the incident and reportedly spoke to the guardians of the two boys.
Ben, a self-employed plumber, said it was an honour to receive a national award, but humbly said he "just did the right thing and that right time".
"You would think most people would have reacted like we did. If that was my children caught in that situation, you would want someone to save them.
"You just would not be able to repay anyone who saved my children's lives. I would be in their debt forever," Ben said.
Lee also received a Commendation for Brave Conduct.
Member for Finniss David Basham commended the actions of all those involved in the rescue who risked their own lives to save the boys.
"The Murray Mouth can be a dangerous place for swimming, but these men did not hesitate to act quickly and decisively to rescue the boys, even though it put their own lives at risk," Mr Basham said.
"Lee and Ben, who were also assisted by others to stay afloat with the boys and get to shore, showed presence of mind and considerable courage in response to the emergency and they are very worthy recipients of this award.
"I consider the two boys who were rescued are alive today thanks to the bravery of these men and the quick action of everyone who assisted them. Our community should be very proud of them."