A man who witnessed the search for a drowned diver off Cornwallis Beach says the current and swells were very strong on the day.
"We felt like the water was tapu," said Victor, who only wished to give his first name.
Police, Coastguard, and Airport Fire and Rescue were involved in the search for the missing diver off the coast of Cornwallis Beach in West Auckland on the morning of Saturday October 9.
"I've been to that spot hundreds of times, I'd fished that water so many times and there was not even one bite (that day), and it was just odd."
Victor and a friend had gone out early that morning to their usual fishing spot about 2km out from Cornwallis Beach.
"We sat there, anchored up, got fishing."
An hour in, they heard the thundering of helicopters. There were two, a Police Eagle and a Westpac Rescue helicopter.
"They were flying really low, just above us, almost like they were trying to communicate with us."
Just then a surf lifesaver boat started coming straight at them. "We started to really panic, like, what's going on?"
Rescuers asked the two men if they had seen "anything black" in the water. They hadn't, apart from a seal about 10 minutes earlier.
"I'm not superstitious," he told the Herald, "but maybe the seal was directing us back to shore."
Not long after, the Westpac rescue helicopter hovered a mere 400m away from Victor's boat, staying above the same spot in the water for a good 20 minutes, he recalled. "I knew right then that they'd found something."
Victor couldn't quite see what was happening, but Coastguard boats started arriving from two different directions. After hovering around for about half an hour, the Westpac helicopter left.
"So we assumed there was no need to take anyone from here."
They headed back to shore at that point. "We knew something bad had happened and it didn't feel right to be there."
Police say they were notified at around 8.25am and two helicopters were deployed in the operation.
"Sadly, the male was located deceased in the water shortly before 10am," said a police spokesperson.
Police are making routine inquiries into the diver's death on behalf of the Coroner and say findings will be released in due course.
Back on shore that morning, Victor found out what happened and said a prayer for the family of the man, even though he had no idea who it was.
"I checked the news not long after and realised we'd just witnessed the drowning of a diver."
He had seen divers on the beach that morning. "I just remember how happy they were, there was even a 12-year-old boy, he was smiling at me."
It was the first weekend of relaxed Covid-19 restrictions that meant Aucklanders were free to do more outdoors. "Lockdown had made everyone eager to get out."
He usually only goes fishing when the safety rating for boating is 7 out of 10 or more, but that morning it was 3.
"The currents were bad, the swells were bad, everything's kinda red. Not the most ideal weather for fishing, let alone diving."
He had fished in that same spot in the Manukau Harbour for years and it was the first time he had had absolutely no bite.
"I have never ever been fishing with no bite even when I fish on the rocks. It was just really strange," he said.
"We felt, it was just tapu. The water was cursed and we shouldn't be here."
The father-of-three says the incident has made him rethink his priorities.
He had been "busting all week" getting his boat ready for fishing while his kids ran around him.
"You wonder, what's the point? Why am I fishing? Maybe I should just spend time with them, because life is too short."