A young man drowned in Kawerau this afternoon after he fled from police.

Police had a warrant to arrest the 24-year-old and around 1.30pm he was sighted in the Bay of Plenty town.

However, the man fled and ran toward the Tarawera River and jumped into the water but quickly got into difficulty.

"Police pulled him out and conducted CPR, however, the man died at the scene," police said in a statement.

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"An investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death is under way."

A St John media spokeswoman said they were called to reports of a drowning in the Tarawera River at 2.01pm.

Two ambulances responded to the reports and one patient was involved, she said.

Fire and police were also at the scene understood to be behind Tarawera High School on River Rd.

A Fire Services communications shift manager said the Kawerau Fire Service responded to an incident involving a drowning this afternoon.

"Unfortunately a person is deceased. As it was a medical event I can't comment any further," he said.

A Kawerau woman, who did not wish to be named, said she had driven past Tarawera High School and seen an armed guard at the entrance to the college.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has been notified about the death.

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