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'Sorry lord, this is it': Father recalls story of nearly drowning at South Coast

A Canberra man who nearly drowned along with three of his children after being caught in a rip off the South Coast has recalled the nightmarish ordeal as he heaped praise on his rescuers.

Anuar Medina, his wife Adelia, and their four children, Francis, Francesca, Freja and Anton were at the coast on March 12 enjoying lunch when they decided to go for a swim.

They stopped at an information centre and asked for directions to a safe beach and was pointed towards Denhams Beach.

At the beach, Mrs Medina and Anton stayed on the beach while Mr Medina and the other children went into the water.

"My four kids were just playing on the sand and the water is above the knee, so I said maybe let's go a little bit further," Mr Medina said.

Mr Medina went back ashore with wife before he heard the children screaming and he ran back to the ocean. "I didn't shout for help, I thought it's not too deep; I can manage to rescue the children," Mr Medina said.

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He'd grown up in Masbate province in the Philippines, right near the water where he could just jump off a bridge and start swimming.

"I respect the ocean: I know how to swim, I know how to fish."

He would later tell his mother, "the ocean here's completely different, I thought I could manage".

Mr Medina swam to Freja first as she was the closest.

He tried to hold her up, but he was paddling and couldn't touch the surface.

A wave hit him in the face and his memory was blurry after that.

"One thing I remember I was staring at [Francis and Francesca] and I thought to myself, 'Sorry Lord, this is it'," Mr Medina said.

It was at this point Canberra teenager William Nash and his father Kevin, stepped in to rescue Anuar and his children.

William told Fairfax Media that he placed Mr Medina and Freja on his surfboard as he swum backwards to shore.

"I know how dangerous rips can be, but this was the first experience I've had that was that bad in the water," he said.

According to posts on social media a third man, Henry Barrington, helped Francis and Francesca.

Mr Medina was dragged back to shore before he heard Kevin and William insisting he walked but could only lie in the sand.

"I hear this woman saying, 'All of your children are doing well'," Mr Medina said.

Mr Medina's children don't want to go near the water for now and he frequently replays the ordeal in his head.

He said he owed his life to Kevin and William Nash as well as the third man, Mr Barrington.

"If they need to get an award they deserve that," Mr Medina said.

"I want to give thanks personally for saving my children and my life, and I don't know how I'm going to repay them." "It's not their responsibility to look after us but they just volunteered. They're like angels to us."

with Kate Lockley