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A man returned to a party in Dunedin and continued drinking for 40 minutes after his friend either jumped or was pushed into Otago Harbour at the weekend, police say.
Senior Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Dunedin, said the bizarre incident early on Thursday could have resulted in tragedy, and has called on people to take better care of their mates.
Police were called by a security guard who said a drunk man had claimed to have thrown his friend into Otago Harbour about 2am on Thursday.
"We attended and the story changed, he then stated the person had jumped in the harbour 40 minutes earlier,'' Snr Sgt Dinnissen said.
It emerged the man had left the scene after his friend either fell or was pushed into the harbour, returning to a party in Jutland St and continuing to drink.
Forty minutes later, he went back to the harbour, but his friend was nowhere to be seen.
"This guy has then returned and expected to find his friend treading water, which he wasn't.''
Police began the process of scrambling Search and Rescue (SAR) when a hypothermic man appeared in his underwear, still wearing his shoes.
"So police were called and were in the process of calling out SAR when this sodden male appeared on the wharf wearing a pilot jacket, boxers shorts and some boots.''
The ''mildly hypothermic'' man was taken by ambulance to Dunedin Hospital.
Snr Sgt Dinnissen said police would be following up with those involved in the incident and called on people to take better care of their friends.
"If your mates do something like that then raise the alarm straight away.
"It could easily have resulted in something far worse.''
Nearly ten years ago, the body of a 20-year-old University of Otago student was found in the harbour.
Regan John McCormack was walking home from a 21st birthday party in central Dunedin the night he fell into the water.
His body was found by men working on the Fryatt St wharf the next morning.