A man who drowned in a diving accident during a work social club trip on the East Coast was the father of eight children.

William John Marupo, also known as "Wolfie", died after diving into the sea at Lottin Pt on the East Cape about 7.30am yesterday.

Three of Marupo's colleagues at C3 dived into the water, putting their own lives at risk to try and save him.

Although they managed to grab him and drag him up on to a rock to perform CPR, they couldn't bring him round. A paramedic from the Eastland Rescue Helicopter was eventually winched down to grab his body before putting him back on land.

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The 48-year-old was a long-serving and well-respected stevedore with C3, a wharf logistics company based at the Port of Tauranga with 22 offices around New Zealand and Australia.

Marupo lived in Tauranga but was originally from Northland.

William 'Wolfie' Marupo, 48, died in a diving accident at Lottin Point yesterday. Photo / Supplied
William 'Wolfie' Marupo, 48, died in a diving accident at Lottin Point yesterday. Photo / Supplied

A spokesperson from C3 said Marupo was "a valued member of the C3 team and our condolences are to the family at this sad time".

"We are currently providing William's colleagues with the support they need."

Lottin Point Motel owner Marija Dalziel praised the efforts of everyone who battled in vain to help Marupo. The group of workers were at the beach as part of a social club function.

She said the alarm bell was raised just after 7.30am yesterday when a group of them went down to the water to decide whether to go out for a dive.

Marupo dived but didn't resurface. His three colleagues then dived in and managed to retrieve him.

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However, she paid tribute to everyone involved in the rescue, including the staff, firefighters and rescue chopper crew.

A spokeswoman for the helicopter said the crew were told a man had got into trouble diving and had suffered a medical event.

When the helicopter arrived, the man could be seen on the rocks surrounded by his exhausted colleagues. A paramedic used a ladder to reach the man on the rocks, where he was pronounced dead.

Dalziel praised the heroic attempts of the rescuers.

"The rescue helicopter put themselves in jeopardy trying to retrieve the tūpāpaku [the body] and they did the most fantastic recovery. We were all in awe of their ability, their confidence, their skill.

William 'Wolfie' Marupo died after a diving accident near The Lottin Point Motel [pictured], East Cape, early Wednesday morning. Photo / File
William 'Wolfie' Marupo died after a diving accident near The Lottin Point Motel [pictured], East Cape, early Wednesday morning. Photo / File

"They had to take him off a rock which was like an island.

"He had been brought up on to a rock which was exposed. The other men got in the water and recovered him and brought him up and then administered CPR.

"Even the fire brigade, trying to get him off this rock. Everyone was there with their ladders. It was an amazing effort on everybody's behalf."

Dalziel also paid tribute to Marupo's colleagues, who were all shocked and distraught.

Police confirmed they had received a report of a person getting in trouble in the water in the Hicks Bay area.

"Sadly, despite efforts to revive them, the person died at the scene. The death is not believed to be suspicious and has been referred to the coroner."

Water Safety NZ statistics show the man's death is now the 72nd preventable drowning so far this year, up about 20 per cent compared with November 29 last year, when 59 people had died.

The Eastland Rescue Helicopter Trust ECT helped recover William Marupo's body from rocks at Lottin Pt. Photo / ERHT
The Eastland Rescue Helicopter Trust ECT helped recover William Marupo's body from rocks at Lottin Pt. Photo / ERHT