A school and community are grieving for the "friendly and nice' teenager who drowned in the Waikato River yesterday.

David Paul Clark, 15, from Turangi, died at a popular swimming spot near the Taupo Control Gates bridge about 4.30pm.

The alarm was raised when he jumped off a bank into the water and failed to surface.

David was swimming with a group of friends including fellow Taupo-nui-a-Tia College students when the incident happened.


One of the group, Daniel Schroder, told how he struggled to save his friend.

''...I just wish I could have done more to save you. I love u a man just a few more seconds but to those who new him best he died happy,'' he posted on Facebook.

"A part of me died that day right next to him.''

Taupo-nui-a-Tia College principal Peter Moyle said guidance counsellors and teachers were supporting students affected by the tragedy.

"He [David] was a quiet guy but he mixed easily with a range of people. He was just a friendly and nice person,'' he said.

About 9pm yesterday, members of David's family and the local iwi, Tuwharetoa, prayed at the scene as divers retrieved his body.

It was found by the Taupo Harbourmaster and Taupo rescue helicopter about half an hour after he went missing.

The national dive squad was needed to recover the body safely.


Two teenagers with him at the time have been commended by police for their efforts to save their friend.

Senior Constable Barry Shepherd, who coordinated the search and rescue operation, praised the attempts by David's friends to help him.

"His two friends did a sterling job trying to get to him and should be commended for their efforts,'' he said.

"These boys were looking out for each other and being careful, but it shows once again how fun can turn to tragedy in an instance. It is easy to be caught unawares and I urge everyone, particularly enthusiastic youngsters, to take extra care.''

- APNZ / nzherald.co.nz