A man who plucked a drowning man off the bottom of the Kaituna River has made contact with the young man whose life he saved.

Geoffroy de Saint Germain, his partner Janine Ewan and their friends Gavin and Annie Lee, all from Auckland, saved the lives of two Indian men on February 8, but were unable to save a third man.

Devinder Singh Karde, 22, a student from Auckland, died. His body was found in the river later in the afternoon.

The three men, all from India but studying in Auckland, got into trouble while trying to swim in the Trout Pool, an area of the Kaituna River near Okere Falls.

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Mr de Saint Germain and his partner and friends, who were holidaying in the area, answered cries for help from a woman who was with the men.

Mr de Saint Germain and Mr Lee rescued a 23-year-old and brought him to the riverbank before Mr de Saint Germain dived under the water to find a missing 20-year-old.

After several attempts to grab the lifeless body that was spiralling away from him about 6m under the water, he finally managed to grip the man's hair and pull him up to the surface.

He was blue and his eyes were half-open and fixed. He and Mr Lee pulled the man's body to the riverbank where they performed CPR on him and got him breathing again. He was admitted to Rotorua Hospital in a serious condition but was released two days later.

Mr de Saint Germain got in contact with him on the phone this week and they have since exchanged a couple of emails. They hoped to meet early next week.

"It's pretty tough on them at the moment because they lost their friend."

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Mr de Saint Germain said the day after the rescue he had hoped to be in contact with him for his own peace of mind because his last image of the man was not very pleasant.

He said it was "really lovely" to talk to him.

"They said basically they were so grateful for their lives and they didn't know how they could repay us. I told them the best way is be a good future father to children, be a good man. They want to meet all of us ... One of them told me if we ever wanted to visit their country we would be most welcome. At this stage we just want to say hello. It's not a joyful situation for them and it's a bit traumatising."

Mr de Saint Germain said he wanted to piece together why they had got into trouble: "I want to know why they went into the water knowing they couldn't swim."