A doctor has spoken for the first time of his desperate bid to rescue pensioner Bruce Imrie and his wife Maureen.

Junior doctor Rory Clarke saw the couple's car plunge into the estuary near Sumner in March, and leapt in after them.

Mr Imrie was rescued, but Mrs Imrie died.

Clarke had been travelling in a taxi to a party in Sumner with his girlfriend, orthopaedic doctor Tara Kubba, and friend, fellow junior doctor Oliver Beaumont.

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He said they saw Mr Imrie's car fail to take a bend on Main Rd and drive straight in front of the taxi, forcing the taxi driver to slam on the brakes.

Maureen Imrie in a photo taken soon before her death. Photo / Supplied
Maureen Imrie in a photo taken soon before her death. Photo / Supplied

Imrie's car slammed through the wooden barrier on the corner and into the water.

Yesterday, Clarke told how he and Beaumont ran to the water, where the car was rapidly submerging, and leapt in.

"Olly dived in first, and I just followed him," he said.

Clarke and Beaumont have both been honoured by police with a district commander's commendation for bravery, while Kubba has been given a certificate of appreciation.

Beaumont has since moved to the United Kingdom.

Canterbury district commander John Price said their actions had put them at considerable risk, and required fortitude and courage.

But Clarke said he did not feel like a hero.

"You can't watch something like that happen and not do anything," he said.

They were able to open Mr Imrie's door and get him out, and pull him back to the beach.

But he said the car was swept away within minutes, before they were able to rescue Mrs Imrie.

By that time, he said other passersby had joined the pair in the water, including several surf life savers from Sumner.

Mr Imrie said he believed he had "blacked out" before the crash.

The crash and his wife's death still haunt him everyday.

What happened afterward was a blur. The only thing he remembered from the rescue was Kubba bending over him on the beach, trying to revive him.

Clarke said the water had been "freezing", and both he and Beaumont were shaking from the cold after only minutes in the water.

"I think we were in first stage hypothermia," he said.

He had a bright red triple XL knitted jersey in the taxi which he planned to wear to the party, which was fancy dress, so he huddled on the beach in that.

Imrie said he called Clarke for the first time after the commendation, inviting him out for a pint to thank him.

They had since built a friendship, bonding over a shared love of rugby. Imrie said Clarke and Beaumont had been incredibly courageous. They had saved his life.

He said the past six months had been incredibly difficult for him.

His daughter, Gaenor, died suddenly in Sydney two months after Maureen's death. He has also had to wait for the outcome of the police investigation into Maureen's death to hear if charges would be laid against him.

Police decided last week to close the case without laying charges.

Imrie said Maureen was an incredible person."She didn't deserve this," he said.

He had met her when he moved to London from Dunedin as a 19-year-old in the 1950s. She was 15, and lived across the road from him.

He said children were her life, especially the couple's son, daughter and two grandsons, and the countless children Mrs Imrie had taught as a nanny and a teacher.

Imrie said his wife had a stroke shortly before the crash, and had been terrified she would have another one.

"She always said she didn't want to get old," he said.

But after her stroke he said the couple had made an effort to spend as much time as they could together, and had always said "I love you" many times every day.

He struggled to face life without her.

"I've found it tough to do anything. You wonder why you're doing it, to be honest," he said.