Tributes for dead diver

Friends of experienced diver Bruce Porter have reacted with shock to his death after being hit by a boat.

Diving buddy Bert van de Burg said Porter was well liked by fellow divers.

"He was one of those guys who always had a smile on his face," van de Burg said.

Porter, 56, was fatally struck by the propeller of a boat the Western Underwater Dive Club from Auckland chartered for a weekend trip to a marine reserve off the east coast of Northland.

Police were yesterday talking to the owners of the 16m catamaran Pacific Hideway after the incident at dusk in the waters off the Poor Knights Islands on Friday.

The dead man's family and the owners of the chartered vessel, Mark and Denise Barnes, yesterday took part in an emotional Maori blessing.

Coastguard operations manager Ray Burge said the severely injured diver was unconscious but still breathing when he was pulled from the water.

By the time a rescue helicopter paramedic was winched on board the man had died.

Police are conducting an investigation on behalf of the coroner.

Another member of the West Auckland club said it was a scheduled club dive and about 12 members signed up to dive for three days around the island group.

Dive Tutukaka spokeswoman Kate Malcom said the experienced dive club member was on the surface of the water at Landing Bay Pinnacle when the accident happened.

"This is a boating incident rather than a diving incident."

Maritime NZ rules oblige skippers and divers to keep a lookout at all times, travel at a safe speed, display an A (alpha) flag to indicate that a diver is in the water, move at under five knots, and keep 50m from other vessels.

Maritime NZ said it has previously investigated accidents where swimmers, spearfishers and divers have been hurt by vessels operating in excess of five knots within 200m of the shore.

In 2004, a diver was run over by a boat near Kawau Island in almost identical circumstances.

- by Mike Botur

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