HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Valerie Coolidge knows how lucky she is.
More specifically, she knows how lucky she is that Peleiupu Niko, Jr. came into her life.
On Tuesday, Niko was taking a lunch break under a shady tree near the point of Kuilima Cove at Turtle Bay. He’s a construction worker for National PCCC Demolition, which is doing work on the resort.
And he was the only one who heard Coolidge’s faint cries for help as a strong current was pulling the Ohio visitor out to sea.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is it. I’m going to die. I’m going to die out here. Nobody can hear me, nobody can see me,’” Coolidge recalled.
She said she tried to ride a wave back toward the reef, but the current only pulled her farther out.
When he heard her, Niko walked out to the rocky shoreline and saw an exhausted Coolidge.
He took off his work boots and jumped in.
“The current was really strong, plus she was hanging on to me,” said Niko. “I was just hoping for a big wave to just catch me and her and I can push her over to the reef.”
When that wave came, he was able to get her to rocks.
“He told me to stand up but every time I tried to stand up another wave came and knocked me over,” Coolidge said.
She told him, “Don’t let go of me. Don’t let go of me.”
Niko helped her to safety. The 61-year old’s only physical signs of the rescue are a few cuts and bruises.
The two exchanged numbers to keep in touch.
Niko now calls her “auntie” and she calls him her “hero.”
“Hero is too much of a big word for me. It’s just being a human being,” Niko said.
After the rescue, he put his boots back on and despite his wet clothes, finished his shift.