"Tell my wife I love her."

Those were the words a brave police officer heard when he plunged into the Manukau Harbour to reassure a kayaker who had given up hope of returning home after spending three hours in the chilly water.

"The male was [saying], 'tell my wife I love her' and all of those sorts of things," said Air support unit Sergeant Colin Ware, the rescuers' superior.

"His mindset was he was close to giving up by the sound of it, he didn't give very positive feedback initially," he told the Herald.


The Eagle helicopter spotted the man who was motionless in the water apart from signalling to them with a thumbs down to suggest he was in a bad way.

A police officer in the helicopter above took matters into his own hands, jumping into a wetsuit and equipping himself with flotation gear.

He was dropped off in the water and swam over to the kayaker who said he had been stuck in the water for around three hours before they arrived.

An Eagle crew member helping the man float. Photo / NZ Police
An Eagle crew member helping the man float. Photo / NZ Police

On Tuesday afternoon a bystander spotted a capsized kayak floating in the water, Eagle quickly finding the man in the water nearby.

The kayaker was only wearing an old floatation vest, a wind-proof jacket and pants when he was found by the helicopter crew.

Eagle is not equipped with gear which could rescue the man from the water and the Fire Rescue Service from Auckland Airport was called to assist.

A hovercraft and staff members were deployed but it would take them some time to arrive at the scene of the man stranded in the water.

"The crew decided there was a bit of a time delay from when the hovercraft was actually going to get there," Ware said.


"The concerned crew member changed into a wetsuit, utilised the vest that we've got and took the surf life-saving tube with him.

"He was able to offer buoyancy with the rescue tube and reassurance, and help him out basically."

Air support unit Sergeant Colin Ware with the Eagle helicopter. Photo / File
Air support unit Sergeant Colin Ware with the Eagle helicopter. Photo / File

The police officer wrapped a surf lifesaving tube over the man's stomach and under his arms, floating underneath the man to help keep him afloat.

When the hovercraft arrived at the scene, the kayaker and the police officer were both plucked from the water and transported to shore at French Bay.

A St John ambulance and its staff were waiting at the scene, assessing the kayaker and discovering he had hypothermia.

Ware said this was not the first time a police officer had stepped out of the helicopter into water to help someone in distress.

It's not overly common but it's something they train for in case the decision is made to assist someone, regardless, the crew don't see themselves as heroes.

"It was a good call to get in the water with him, the crew concerned are pleased they were able to help, they don't want to be publicised," Ware said.

The man was transported to Waitakere Hospital in a serious condition on Tuesday afternoon.