Lobster diver Ross King was praised for his heroic efforts to save three elderly fishers after their boat capsized at Port Kembla.
Mr King had been diving for lobsters 100 metres away when he saw the men's boat tip over.
He swam over and brought 79-year-old Ross Tanner to shore before heading back out to rescue 67-year-old Peter Groves.
Mr King then went out a third time to save the last survivor, 65-year-old Anastasios Samaras, holding him afloat for 10 minutes until the arrival of the police launch.
Mr Samaras later agreed he owed his life to Mr King and had planned to see him tomorrow to say thank you.
He said he had been struggling in the water after the boat capsized.
"I found myself underneath the boat then started swimming," Mr Samaras told the Mercury. "But I got tired and was too cold."
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