Drownings: Horror summer on the water

Searchers were last night re-evaluating efforts as two young men remain missing, feared drowned, at a popular East Coast surf beach, and in the Waikato River.

A specialist dive team from Wellington yesterday searched the popular Makorori Beach north of Gisborne after a 19-year-old man disappeared with his brother while swimming at 10am on Saturday.

The man's 23-year-old brother was discovered dead around half an hour later.

A 20-year-old man, a friend of the two brothers, made it back to shore before help arrived.

It is believed the trio got into difficulty while swimming in metre-plus surf about 100 metres off the beach.

They had been staying with the brothers' parents at nearby Tatapouri Motor Camp before driving to the beach to fish and swim.

Camp manager Chris Berge said the brothers and their parents were regulars. "The mum and dad are the loveliest people and this will tear their hearts out.

"I went to give him a hug and he burst into tears. He said, 'I've lost both of my boys'."

Mr Berge said he believed the couple did not have any other children and described the brothers were lovely lads.

"They're quiet and shy." They were fit and strong and were in the water often, he said.

The drowning was the latest incident in a horror summer on the water, with at least 13 drownings since Christmas.

In Waikato, a 22-year-old man is presumed to have also drowned after he attempted to swim across Waikato River shortly before 9pm on Saturday.

His family saw him slip below the surface while another man was attempting to rescue him. Indications were that the missing man was not a strong swimmer, police said.

In Auckland, Police Coastal Master Garry Larsen said it was lucky police were not dealing with something more serious after a dad plunged into the Auckland Harbour to save his 3-year-old daughter who had fallen off North Wharf on Saturday.

The mother also dove into the water, but was injured when she struck a moored boat on the way down.

"It was a lucky escape," Mr Larsen said. It is understood the family were tourists from Europe.

In Dunedin, surf life savers were left emotionally drained after a harrowing rescue in which a 14-year-old girl nearly drowned at Brighton Beach on Saturday.

Surf Life Saving Otago officer Sam Clutterbuck said the girl had been swimming between the flags, but was out past the breaking waves and could no longer touch the bottom.

Witnesses said she began screaming and waving her arms about 1.30pm.

"She got out of her depth," Mr Clutterbuck said.

"She was so close to drowning....The young rescuers were quite emotional because it was so close."

The girl was taken to Dunedin Hospital for treatment and is expected to make a full recovery.

In Hawke's Bay, a teenager and a 51-year-old man were lucky to make it out of heavy surf at Waimarama Beach on Saturday.

The older man was pulled out just before he drowned, Waimarama patrol captain James Laver said.

The 13-year-old boy collapsed after being pulled out of the water. They were taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital but later discharged.

A 42-year-old Invercargill man drowned at Ocean Beach in Bluff yesterday afternoon.

The man was collecting shellfish offshore with friends when he appeared to get into difficulties in the water.

He was brought to shore by his friends who immediately started CPR on him.

Specialist medical assistance arrived at the scene shortly afterwards and continued CPR. Unfortunately the man was not able to be resuscitated.

- NZME. News Service, additional reporting Otago Daily Times, Hawke's Bay Today

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