A grieving widow has expressed admiration for a friend who desperately tried to save her dying husband despite not being able to swim.
The heart-breaking moment when non-swimmer Jagdeep (Gary) Singh, 24, swum out to save Maninder Singh, 26, after he fell into the water at Lake McLaren on November 16 last year was revealed at an inquest into the men's deaths yesterday.
Maninder, also known as Mani, and his friend Gary drowned after Mani swung out over the lake on a rope tied to tree which instantly snapped, and both got into difficulties.
Outside court Mani's widow Jessie Kaur told the Bay of Plenty Times that she considered Gary Singh a "hero".
"Mani was my best friend and soulmate and he will always be so. Gary was like a brother to me and he's my hero for what he tried to do that day. I still miss them both very much."
Ms Kaur said she was happy with the coroner's ruling which had not been unexpected.
Coroner Gordon Matenga ruled the deaths were accidental drownings.
Ms Kaur said her long-term goal was to become a swim instructor targeting the Indian community who were often non-swimmers.
"It's so important that everyone learns to swim, not matter what age. It could easily have been a child who died that day," she said.
Ravinderjit Singh and Manpreet Singh who visited the lake with the deceased described their desperate wait on shore for help to arrive.
"Maninder landed in the water about three to four metres out from the bank after the rope snapped," he said
"Hearing the splash and Maninder yelling out, Gary swam out to him. I'm not sure whether he grabbed hold of Mani or not because it all happened really fast.
"I could see both were struggling so I also got into the water and was holding on to the grass bank, because I could not swim and was yelling out 'help, help' for at least three to four minutes but nobody was there," he said.
Mr Singh said while Manpreet continued to yell out for help he ran to nearby building to try to find someone in the park to help them.
Detective Kevin Shields who gave evidence at the inquest said Jagdeep's body was found face down about 1.8 metres under water.
He was dressed in black socks, blue jeans and no shirt, he said.
The next morning Mani's body was located by a member of national dive squad in 2.1m of water, with a rope loosely tied around his right arm.
Coroner Matenga paid tribute to Gary who he said had shown "great courage" after he tried to save his friend, despite knowing he could not swim and the depth of the water.
Mr Matenga said this court had no intention of trying to be the "fun police" but it was important to encourage all New Zealanders to learn to swim.
"Or at very least learn sufficiently to be confident enough to get themselves out of difficulty, he said
Warren Aitken, Tauranga City Council's team leader parks and environment, told the court that immediately after the deaths council removed all low-hanging branches.
It had also subsequently employed two extra staff to monitor the park fortnightly and all unauthorised ropes were removed, he said.
Mr Matenga said given the steps taken by council it was not necessary to make any further recommendations.