Five men had a lucky escape when the dinghy they were in capsized and they were forced to cling to it while it floated down the Waikato river.

Emergency services were called to the area, not far from Narrows Bridge, at around 6pm.

A local reported seeing a group of men clinging to a floating dinghy, calling out for help. The vessel capsized when it became tangled in underwater debris.

As the dinghy floated towards Hamilton city, one man became separated from the group and was rescued by a waka crew that had been training on the river at the time.


Another man managed to make it to the shore on his own, while the others were rescued by members of the police.

At least one of the men was just minutes away from being pulled under, police said.
The group had been in the water for about 40 minutes and all were suffering from hypothermia when rescued.

Police said none of the men - who had been heading to the popular farming and agricultural trade show: Fieldays - had been wearing a life jacket and alcohol was involved.

Police called for people to be more responsible in the water and warned that the incident could have been a lot worse.

"These were mature men who could have taken steps to be safer on this occasion," a police statement said.

"It is questionable as to whether the boat was of adequate size to carry five men - especially with the current high river level and the fact it is running faster than normal due to this week's storm."

Police acknowledged that had it not been for the fast response from members of the local community and emergency services, things could have turned to tragedy.

"It had the potential for one or more men losing their lives," police said.