Teenager Ben Short was joking with his uncle just moments before suffering a near-fatal epileptic fit 200 metres from shore on Lake Illawarra.
Mr Short, a 19-year-old from country Victoria, had fallen off the back of a jet ski being driven by his uncle Adam Thomson and was treading water.
It was the morning of Friday, October 18, and the two had been enjoying a relaxed time jet skiing with a couple of mates at the lake.
After checking to make sure he was OK, Mr Thomson jokingly told his nephew to swim back before heading further out into the lake.
When he turned back, he saw what looked like Mr Short suddenly ‘‘stand up’’ in water more than two metres deep, before falling face down into the water.
‘‘I saw him flop down, face down ... when I got to him I could see him still breathing face down so he was breathing in water,’’ Mr Thomson said.
‘‘I rolled him over, checked his pulse and breathing, did CPR in the water then I yelled for help,’’ Mr Thomson said.
Illawarra league identity Bronx Goodwin had been jet skiing with the two men before the incident.
Mr Goodwin said he ‘‘commandeered’’ a nearby boat belonging to a fisherman and the two motored out to the spot where Mr Short had gone under.
‘‘He was unconscious and stiff as a board, having a fit,’’ Mr Goodwin said.
Bringing him to shore in the boat, Mr Goodwin administered further CPR, and Mr Short briefly regained consciousness, his eyes rolling into the back of his head.
Paramedics were called, and Mr Short was taken to Wollongong Hospital where he spent four days recovering from water inhalation and kidney damage.
Paramedics later told Mr Goodwin and Mr Thomson that if they hadn’t acted when they did, Mr Short would be dead.
It was also the first time Mr Short had ever suffered a fit, and his epilepsy had been undiagnosed prior to the incident.
This week, the Australian Royal Life Saving Society released a report that found 34 per cent of the 291 drowning deaths that occurred in the past 12 months were in regional areas.
Of those, 99 drowned in inland waterways.
Men account for 82 per cent of all drownings, and Royal Life Saving CEO Justin Scarr said it was critical for people to stop and think before taking unnecessary risks while boating and fishing.
‘‘Men must stop and think ... when they are swimming, fishing or boating with their fathers, brothers or mates,’’ he said.
A former defence force member, Mr Thomson was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Middle East.
He said his nephew’s near drowning had pushed him back ‘‘1000 steps’’ in his recovery.
‘‘I’ve gone from going well to a kick in the arse,’’ he said.