Cape Town - Saving a hypothermic paddler from the ocean off Port Elizabeth was the closest he has come to watching someone die, an NSRI member said on Monday. "Basically I was at the shops and I got a phone call saying someone had fallen off his paddle ski, so I dropped my kids at my boet's house and went there," National Sea Rescue Institute coxswain Hans-Daniel Heimann told News24. On Monday he received a bronze gallantry award from the NSRI for his efforts.He said the waves at Sardinia Bay on that day in November last year were enormous. "It was like watching a double-storey building coming towards you." The troughs between the waves allowed them to see Clint Hempel hanging on to his paddle ski in the distance. When Heimann and his colleague Stephen van den Berg got to Hempel they told him to let go of his ski. "He couldn't say anything. He was so hypothermic." They managed to pry his hands loose and get him into the boat. "It was the closest I have ever come to watching someone die."The blank look on Hempel's face bothered him after the rescue."I needed to go see this guy and see him smile."Hempel recovered and was released from the ICU. When Heimann met him, Hempel remembered nothing of what had happened.Heimann said he was "stoked" at receiving the award, and acknowledged the help he and his colleague received at the time."I'm still blown away. It's nice to get an award, but there were also six guys on the beach with us that helped us launch the boat that day."