A council worker drowned after he fell off a wharf and was swept away in the Waikato River yesterday.
Witnesses said the 46-year-old, who worked for Environment Waikato, was with a colleague at Port Waikato shortly before 1pm when the accident happened.
An Environment Waikato spokeswoman said the man, a contractor for the company, was installing a monitoring system in a tide-level recorder.
A Port Waikato woman, who asked not to be named, said he was last seen attaching a ladder to the wharf.
She said it was possible he was harnessed to the ladder when it broke away.
"He got on it and then the whole thing went into the river," she said.
"He popped up once and he's never been seen since."
The man's colleague and two others jumped in to try to save him.
They were soon joined by a volunteer coastguard vessel, surf lifesavers and the police Eagle helicopter, but all were unsuccessful.
A Counties Manukau spokesman said a police dive squad was called in soon after.
The woman said the wharf was a popular area and children would dive off it during the summer.
But she said the man could have been caught in what appeared to be a very strong and unusual outgoing tide.
"We are assuming he has been washed out to sea," she said.
"He would have gone past the whitebaiters further down the river but even some of them came to shore complaining that the current was really strong today."
Police communications Inspector Chris Robinson said the dive squad found the body at 7.35pm.
Mr Robinson said the man's name would not be released until his family were contacted.
Police and the Department of Labour were investigating.By James Ihaka Email James