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An Auckland holidaymaker was left with four painful puncture wounds in his leg after he stepped off the back of his boat and straight on to a stingray yesterday afternoon.

The 45-year-old man and his son are believed to have been snorkelling for kina at South Cove, Kawau Island, and were anchored about 30 metres offshore in thigh-deep water whenthe unusual accident took place.

"It happened around one o'clock and I believe he stepped off the back of his boat and just straight away felt a couple of huge electric shocks go through his leg," said volunteer firefighter Karen Duytshoff, one of several local residents who helped to tend the injured man.

"He got back into the boat and noticed that he had puncture wounds.He thought it was an electric eel or moray, but looking at the woundsit looks more like a stingray."

It is understood the man's son, who is believed to be in his early teens, paddled the short distance to the shore and then ran up a gravel road to get help from the locals.

Mrs Duytshoff said the son was shaken but uninjured. The man was in a lot of pain and had two puncture wounds in the front of his knee. There were another two in the back of the knee, at least one of which looked as if it had come through from the front.

Locals could only give the man oxygen and clean and dress his wounds. They then supported him and kept him warm until the Westpac Rescue Helicopter arrived.

The man was flown to North Shore Hospital, with his son, in what duty crew described as "a fair bit of pain".

It was not clear if he remained there last night but a doctor from the island who helped attend to the man said he would probably need exploratory surgery to establish the extent of the injuries.

Kawau locals say it is not unusual for the stingrays to sunbathe in shallow waters around the island, although most move away when there is a disturbance in the water.

"Normally they move away but because he had been in his boat and then hopped off the backof it straight into the water - it was just bad luck," said Mrs Duytshoff.

Westpac duty crewman Leon Ford, who also attended to the injured man, said the rescue helicopter had dealt with about three stingray cases in the past two years.

In April commercial fisherman Dan Rawlinson was stung in the leg by a stingray caught in a net. The Tauranga man was forced to endure an agonising 2 1/2-hour trip back to shore and suffered a temporary paralysis of his leg.

Crocodile wrestler Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray barb to the chest in September 2006 while filming the documentary Ocean's Deadliest off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.