Beers served from a chilly bin marked the poignant launch of a Tauranga-based surf boat aimed at helping rescuers save people "when all else fails".
The TrustPower TECT Rescue Helicopter joined a crowd of about 30 gathered at Marine Park yesterday in celebrating the donation of the boat to Philips Search and Rescue Trust helicopter crews in Tauranga, Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo and Whanganui.
The boat was gifted to the Trust by Device Technologies, whose Czech national employee Ladislav Svarc, 29, drowned in a kayaking accident earlier this year.
Until now, rescue helicopter crews have trained for water rescues with IRBs offered by surf lifesaving clubs when available.
Philips crew trainer Simon Barton said the implications of the donation by Device Technologies were far reaching.
"What it means is that we don't have to rely on the kindness of surf lifesaving clubs. It can be really hard doing training during the week and for them to get the time off, they're all volunteers."
Mr Barton said the boat, worth about $10,000, would be based in Tauranga where Philips had the most water activity. It would be used in training with at least eight local 'rescue swimmers' who specialise in water winch rescues often involving huge swells and massive waves. It would also be used in lakes and rivers throughout the five districts.
Device Technologies' managing director Peter Mears, a former lifeguard and rescue diver, said buying the Trust a surf boat was a way of giving something tangible back to the community.
Mr Mears said the tragedy of Jack Dixon was a classic example "for why the guys need a boat like this".
"That's what we are training for. The worst circumstances - when all else fails."
Mr Mears said the decision to dedicate the launch of the boat to his late employee was easy.
"When something like this happens, it's nice to come out of a bad situation with something positive," he said.
"Ladislav was a 29-year-old young guy who loved his beer, loved his people, loved his girls and loved life.
"He drowned in the very sort of rescue the helicopter would have gone to if he had survived or was trapped.
"So there is a lasting legacy in New Zealand. Out of something tragic has come some good, and that's how we would like to remember him."
Kayaker Alexandra Price said the dedication was "very much" appreciated by the paddling community.
"It's very nice that his memory can be used to help others and that it's something to do with water," she said.
"I think it's an excellent choice ... He spent so much of his time in the Bay as well."
Fellow kayaker Martin Peat said he wanted to take part to help celebrate his "cheeky and mischievous" friend's life and see it being used to give back to the community.
Beers from the Czech Republic were handed out to the crowd in honour of Mr Svarc as the boat was formally blessed.
"He would have liked this," Mr Peat said.