The father of a boy saved from drowning in rapids in Central Otago says the family is filled with gratitude for those who helped in the harrowing rescue.

About 20 people helped free the 8-year-old Dunedin boy after he became stuck under a waterfall at Rumbling Burn, near Lake Wānaka, last Wednesday.

Mackay Blaikie was pinned between boulders, with the waterfall pounding down onto him as he struggled to breathe.

His friends and their father tried all they could to free him, and then strangers came to help too — finally pulling him away after about 30 minutes of struggling.

Father John Blaikie said Mackay was doing well after the traumatic experience but it had been an emotional time.

“We’re doing okay; we have our moments,” Blaikie said, “but the good thing is that Mackay has bounced back and he’s been back on the water.

“He just doesn’t want to talk about it too much at this stage.”

Blaikie said it was challenging for him and his wife, Tara Blaikie, to rely on others to help their boy through the struggle — as he was out with his friends and their parents.

“The fact that Tara and I weren’t present does make it hard when one of your kids is going through the battle of his life and you’re not there to help him. It’s certainly something I’ve been reflecting on a bit and it brings a lot of emotion to things,” he said.

“Life’s precious, moments like this, you reflect on things. Don’t take things for granted. Give your kids a big hug and a squeeze.

“Life really can change in an instant.”

Blaikie said he and the whānau were “forever grateful” for all those involved on the day.