A 42-year-old Whakatane woman has drowned at a beach near Thornton while reportedly trying to save her son.
Police said it was believed the woman had tried to save a child she was with before getting into trouble herself, on Saturday afternoon.
A friend of the woman posted on Facebook she died a hero saving her boy.
Whakatane police Sergeant Aaron Fraser said the death could have been a result of a medical condition and they were waiting on results from the autopsy.
He said an off-duty policeman, who was at the beach with his family, saw the woman and tried to save her.
The policeman managed to get her onto the beach where he performed CPR on the woman for about 15 minutes.
When the ambulance arrived at the beach they were unable to revive her.
The children were not injured.
Mr Fraser said the beach was unpatrolled and the woman was wearing clothes not togs, which could have weighed her down.
"If she was trying to save [the children she was with] she has done a great job. Tragically she was not able to look after herself."
Her niece commented on social media site Facebook about the tragedy.
"Things will never be the same without you. Rest in paradise aunty, rest easy and shine bright."
The drowning capped off a dangerous weekend for beach goers in the Bay of Plenty.
A near drowning further up the coast in Waihi Beach saw two 12 year olds rescue an Asian man who was distressed in the water.
They pulled him ashore and performed CPR on the man until an ambulance arrived.