A MOSGIEL mother made ''by far'' the hardest decision of her life, turning back to shore to call for help after swimming about 50m in an effort to retrieve her 5-year-old son, who was being blown across Lake Waihola.
Jaxon Innes, who was wearing a life jacket and wetsuit, clung for dear life to an inflatable toy plane as his mother, Kerry Johns, aunt and three siblings watched him disappear from sight about 2pm yesterday.
He was later found by rescuers, clutching reeds about 1km away on the other side of the lake.
''All I really wanted to do was keep swimming, but I knew it wasn't going to help him in the long run.
''It's definitely not a choice that I would ever want anyone else to go through.''
After getting back to shore she feared the worst and credited Waihola Rescue Boat volunteer Robert Hand with saving Jaxon's life.
''If it wasn't for that man, it would have been a different story.''
She felt overwhelming relief when the rescue boat was about 5m from shore and she could see her son was well.
She hoped others could learn from her experience, saying parents should ''keep an eye'' on their children at all times when they were around water.
She also advised people against using inflatables in lakes or on the ocean due to the risk of children being swept away on them, saying they were best kept in the pool.
She had only looked away for seconds before noticing Jaxon, who had been playing in the water close to shore with his three siblings, was in trouble as the wind suddenly picked up.
''I said to my oldest, `we need to bring Jaxon back in' and that's when Jaxon said `I can't'.
''By the time that I had run round and entered the water and started swimming, the current had picked him up.
''It was literally a freak accident. It happened so fast,'' she said.
Mr Hand, who was working at Waihola Mechanical Marine when the alarm was raised, said ''by the time we got the call, he [Jaxon] was halfway across the lake''.
Mr Hand grabbed a customer, Trevor Slattery, and the pair headed out on the lake, as distressed people on the shore pointed to where the boy was last sighted.
''We got to the middle of the lake and there was no sign of him, no sign of the inflatable ... nothing.''
However, after travelling a few hundred metres further, a small object was spotted in reeds on the opposite side of the 1km-wide lake.
''And there he was ... hanging very tight to the rushes.
''He was a good wee boy who wanted mummy.''
Reuniting Jaxon with his mother was a special moment and ''they were so both happy to see each other''.
''It is a great relief when a rescue turns out that way,'' Mr Hand said.
Clutha-Taieri area response manager Senior Sergeant Alastair Dickie said the mother was distraught when he arrived at the scene.
''The wee boy was also in a bit of shock ... he had the wind up him, so to speak.''
An ambulance was called as a precaution, he said.
''We had a wee chat and I told him `Well done son for holding on to your ... toy'.''
Snr Sgt Dickie said it was a freak occurrence, and ''it could have been bad news''.