By ED SOUTHORN
LISA King found herself suddenly confronted with every parent's worst nightmare.
She saw a look of absolute terror on her child's face. She knew his young life was at stake, yet there was little she could do to help.
But it wasn't a dream - Lisa's son Billy, 9, and his mate Jacob Johnson, also 9, were being swept away in an ocean rip near the Cudgera Creek mouth at Hastings Point.
Thanks to a mysterious stranger, the boys' young lives were saved.
Now Lisa wants to thank the man who appeared seemingly out of nowhere, performed a life-saving rescue, then wandered away with his own family.
Lisa had been watching the boys in serious trouble from the beach with her daughters Gabrielle, 2, and Hannah, 4.
She feared if she left the two young girls to try to save the boys they might follow her into the sea.
As Lisa stood horrified on the sand last Tuesday morning, Billy and Jacob struggled about 50 metres offshore.
A few minutes earlier she had been standing with all the children in waist-deep water before turning away from the boys to take the girls back to shore.
When Lisa looked back out toward Billy and Jacob from the beach they were in trouble. The sand bank they had all been standing on had "collapsed".
Billy's brother Clint, 10, had managed to make his own way in to the beach.
As the seconds ticked by, Lisa grew frantic, watching the two nine-year-olds.
"I was absolutely terrified," she said yesterday.
"I started screaming, I've never felt anything like it, I was shaking so much.
"All that night, all I could see was their terrified faces."
Luckily a man swimming with his young family about 20 metres further north realised the two boys were in trouble and swam across to help.
He assisted the boys to shore, helped by a teenage youth who also swam over to lend a hand.
The mystery man told Lisa to "take a few deep breaths" and she quickly thanked him before he left.
"I just hope he sees the Daily News, because I really want him to know how thankful I am," Lisa said yesterday.
Billy, who attends Bogangar Public School and is a Cabarita Surf Life Saving Club nipper, and Jacob, a pupil at Tweed Valley College, Murwillumbah, both said they also wanted to thank their rescuer.
So did Lisa's husband Mark, a storeman at the Condong mill, and Jacob's mum Louise.