The wife of an Auckland man who drowned in a lake while trying to retrieve his dog from the water watched in horror as bystanders tried desperately to save him.

Peter Lewis, 59, died late on Saturday afternoon following what his family say was a tragic accident. Mr Lewis and his wife, Ruth, had been walking their dog on Colonial Rd, near the Chelsea Sugar Refinery in Birkenhead, when their pet began chasing some birds.

The refinery is situated on the north side of the Waitemata Harbour and is a popular spot with pet owners.

Police yesterday said that the dog entered the water and when it did not respond to commands to come back in, Mr Lewis went in after it.


Police also said that he may have entered the lake to help the animal, who was apparently being attacked by swans.

A North Shore police spokesman said: "He managed to get a hold of his dog and started swimming towards the shore, however he got into some difficulty.

"Two bystanders entered the water to try to help him. They pulled him to the shore. They started CPR until [the ambulance] arrived but he never regained consciousness and he died at the scene.

"He was walking with his wife."

Mr Lewis ran his own company, Peter Lewis Carpet Services.

At his home in Wairau Valley yesterday, his grey work van was parked in the driveway as family members stood outside.

Those who spoke to the Herald said it was a difficult time for the family but particularly Mr Lewis' wife, who did not want to talk about the accident.

His Facebook page shows his hometown as Burnley, Lancashire and he has written on his page: "Celtic, Welsh, Irish but Lancashire lad - and now a proud Kiwi."

In a notice published yesterday, Mr Lewis' family paid tribute to him and also acknowledged that he had died "in a tragic accident".

"Loved husband and best friend of Ruth. Brother of Gillian, special uncle of Eddie and Rory. Loved by his extended family."

A service to celebrate Mr Lewis' life will be held on Friday.

Mr Lewis was one of four people who drowned during the Easter holiday. Another man - aged in his 30s - also drowned near the refinery in the early hours of Sunday morning.

additional reporting APNZ