Two police officers who dragged a 63-year-old woman from her sinking car at an Auckland wharf believe she was just a minute away from drowning.
Constables Paul Watts and Simon Russell and two members of the public have been commended by the country's top police officers after their rescue efforts, which involved running into the water, smashing the car's back window with a rock and pulling the woman to safety.
Just after 3pm yesterday, the woman's BMW drove off Fishermans Wharf at Northcote Point on Auckland's North Shore.
The car quickly started filling up with water as the driver tried to get out. She climbed into the back seat where there was an air pocket.
Two members of the public - including Glenfield fisherman Erwin Kampos - ran into the water trying to hold the vehicle.
The two officers, who are motorway officers based at the Harbour Bridge, arrived and tried to open the doors, unsuccessfully.
"When we entered the water, I was talking to one of the [members of the public] who was trying to balance the vehicle and he said he was looking for a rock to try and smash the window," Mr Russell said.
"I tried my baton which failed and then I tried looking on the ocean floor and when I went down I actually cut my hand."
North Shore Times reporter Simon Maude who had been taking photos of the Harbour Bridge nearby, got a rock and Constable Watts used it to smash the back window.
Once Mr Watts cleared some of the glass, Mr Russell helped him drag the woman from the car.
"She was quite distressed," Mr Watts said.
"It was pretty close, probably 30 or 40 seconds after we managed to get the female out of the car, the car was already slipping further into the water.
"I'd say she'd probably only had maximum probably another minute, minute-and-a-half if she hadn't got out," Mr Watts said.
The woman was taken to hospital but was not injured. Police are investigating the cause of the incident.
District Commander of the Waitemata Police, Superintendent Bill Searle said of the officers: "It goes without saying that without their efforts, the outcome here could have been much different."