A 21-year-old's last swim of his holidays was "moments away" from becoming the last swim of his life, says a paramedic who helped rescue the man yesterday.

The South Aucklander was holidaying with family at Hahei in the Coromandel and was taking a final dip before returning to the city last night, said Marcel Driessen, flight paramedic for Auckland-Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

About 5.30pm the leisurely swim turned into something far more serious.

"At the moment with the easterly winds the sea is quite rough on this side of the peninsula," said Mr Driessen.


"He got caught in a rip and was being dragged out and started fighting against it and calling out for help."

The man's father and an off-duty lifeguard from Europe rushed to his aid.

"They leapt in the water and helped drag the young fella out. His dad said he thought he was past the point of no return at one stage.

"They dragged him out and he collapsed on the sand and started profusely vomiting."

The man was trasnported to Middlemore Hospital. Photo / Auckland rescue Helicopter Trust
The man was trasnported to Middlemore Hospital. Photo / Auckland rescue Helicopter Trust

Once ashore, the man was treated by St John Ambulance paramedics and stabilised before the helicopter crew arrived. The busy hotspot had to be cleared of beachgoers for the helicopter to land.

The man was transported to Middlemore Hospital in a status two, or serious, condition.

"We call them fatal drownings or non-fatal drownings, and he was extremely lucky that this was a non-fatal one," said Mr Driessen. "He was only moments, or at least minutes, away from being a tragedy."

Mr Driessen said the near-death was yet another reminder for swimmers and those near water to take care.

"We have had one of the worst summers on the water especially since the Christmas period. We have been to a lot of [water rescues] and it is scary stuff.

"It is about education and people being careful and respecting the water, if you're not sure, don't go."

The number of people who have died in the water over the recent holiday break yesterday reached 11, worsening average Christmas drowning statistics.