Reece Atkinson made a critical decision that probably saved his life Sunday when he took his kids diving to a remote spot at New Zealand's Riversdale Beach: Atkinson didn't go alone.

A last-minute change of heart prompted Atkinson to take along Ayden Lambert after plans with another friend had fallen through, according to the Wairarapa Times-Age.

It was a good thing because as he was exiting the water Atkinson was attacked by a stingray he first thought was a shark.

"We were just finishing our dive," Atkinson told Wairarapa Times-Age. "I was walking out of the water and it was murky so I couldn't see anything."

Atkinson felt something latch onto his leg.

"My leg was still underwater so I didn't realize how bad it was until I stood up and saw the water was red all around me," he continued.

The blood was flowing from his leg "like a garden hose."

"I saw all the blood in the water and I was thinking the sharks would be pretty hungry."

On shore, Lambert used a weightlifting belt as a tourniquet. Atkinson was then driven to his aunt's house 20 minutes away and from there was airlifted by Westpac Rescue helicopter to Wellington Hospital where he underwent a three-hour operation to clean the toxins from the wound.

Atkinson didn't know it was a stingray that attacked him until his wetsuit was cut away revealing entry and exit wounds from a stingray. The stingray's barb pierced the right side of the calf behind the bone and went through the left side.

"I guess I just stood on it and it didn't like it very much," Atkinson told Wairarapa Times-Age.

During the dive, Atkinson had his two children, Nathan and Logan, and fortunately Lambert had joined him with his four kids and a brother.

"I don't know what I would have done [had Lambert not joined him]," Atkinson told Wairarapa Times-Age. "I don't know if I would have been able to get the kids out or stay conscious long enough to drive."

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