Levi Gavin was fishing at Horahora Estuary, 30km east of Whangarei, when the orca grabbed the catch bag he was holding and dragged him down for 40 seconds, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Fortunately, he was able to free himself.

“As soon as it got me under water, my goggles came off and kept flapping on my face and it just kept going,” he told the Sunday Herald.

“I went to go open my eyes but all I could see was little white bubbles so I just closed my eyes and tried not to use my energy because then I use up my breath.

“I got to my last breath. I couldn’t really think at the time.”

He managed to remove his weight belt and floated to the surface, where his cousin – and the tide – helped him to safety.

Just before the attack, Gavin and his cousin had started to make their way to shore after seeing a pod of orcas 300m away from where they were diving. But the whale had swooped in too fast for them to evade it.

“Everything was going wrong that day, everything was meant to stop us from going out,” he said. “My cousin didn’t want to go out … He offered to give me a knife to strap around my leg and I said no to that. If I had had the knife I could have cut the rope.”

Experts say attacks by orcas in the wild are rare and there are no known fatalities.

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