A man in Clive, Hawke's Bay, had a lucky escape yesterday afternoon when he was rescued from the water by four onlookers.

The man was believed to have been collecting mussels off the beach near Richmond Rd when two men fishing in the area noticed him getting into difficulty in the water.

One of the fishermen dialled 111. He then grabbed a long piece of rope from his ute and flagged down two people passing by to ask if they were confident swimmers.

One, a woman, agreed to enter the water, and was able to reach the struggling man and get the rope around him. The two fishermen then helped bring the man to shore.

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Senior Constable Andy Clinton says police arrived at the scene to find the man unresponsive.

"I have to admit, we feared the worst," said Clinton. "However, thankfully he was able to be revived.

"I have no doubt that if it wasn't for the actions of those people we would have had another drowning statistic on our hands."

The man was driven to hospital by ambulance.

Police said they were keen to thank the rescuers, and planned to speak with them to acknowledge their actions this week.