A diver pierced through the thigh by a stingray barb staggered to the beach before his mates managed to slow the bleeding with a belt and get him to safety.

Reece Atkinson, 31, is in Wellington hospital recovering from a three-hour operation after the barb of a stingray punctured his thigh at Riversdale Beach on Sunday.

Atkinson and fellow volunteer firefighter Ayden Lambert were out diving at a remote location off the far end of Orui-Riversdale Road.

They were joined by Lambert's four children, his brother Hanam Lambert, and two of Atkinson's children, Logan and Nathan.

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The dive location was a spot at Riversdale beach which can only be accessed via a farm on private land.

Lambert said the first indication anything was wrong was towards the end of their dive when they saw Atkinson running back towards the beach.

"We saw him staggering and falling over as he was running out of the water so we went running after him."

What they saw when they got to shore was a terrifying scene. Blood was pouring from a puncture in his leg.

Lambert's first instinct was to round up the six children and get them in the car away from the scene.

He remembered he had recently bought a new weightlifting belt which he grabbed from his bag and took down to the beach to use as a tourniquet.

"We strapped up his leg, cut the circulation off and wrapped it in a towel to stop the bleeding."

The closest house to where they were belonged to Atkinson's aunt, but it would mean enduring a 20-minute drive.

Riversdale Beach, where a diver was wounded when a stingray barb pierced his thing. Photo / supplied.
Riversdale Beach, where a diver was wounded when a stingray barb pierced his thing. Photo / supplied.

"Our trucks were parked on the beach so my brother got on the phone straight away and then jumped in the truck and drove to where Reece was."

"We had to hold the towel on his leg all the way out to his aunty and uncle's house -- he lost a lot of blood."

They stayed on the phone to emergency services and tried their best to relax their friend.

"We got a bit of water down him, spoke to him and kept him calm a bit, which was hard because it was a bloody long trip."

Once they arrived, the Westpac Rescue helicopter was there within 10 minutes.

The paramedics cleaned and wrapped Atkinson's leg and gave him medication to help him calm down so they could inspect the wound more closely.

Atkinson originally thought he had been bitten by a shark as he felt something tugging on his leg and shaking his whole body, which turned out to be the stingray attempting to remove the barb from his thigh.

"He was in a lot of shock" said Lambert.

The children had remained relatively calm throughout the ordeal and were kept distracted by relatives inside the house.

"Once he was okay and happy they brought the kids outside to say hello."

Lambert said the whole situation was extremely frightening, especially as Atkinson blacked out several times.

"We're in the Eketahuna Fire Brigade together and I'm thankful we have those first aid courses - you just put what you've learnt into action and hope it works."

Atkinson's father, Logi Atkinson, said his son was just lucky to be with his mates when it happened.

"They're the heroes really" his father said.

The three children are with Atkinson's father while he remains in hospital, where his wife Liesha is by his side.