A 16-year-old boy whose family were thrown into rough seas on a fatal boat trip off the East Coast scrambled to shore then clambered up a 30-metre cliff face and hiked 2km to get help.
Dripping wet, the teen arrived at the Mahia Peninsula home of Dieter and Elisabeth Dallmeier about 10.30am yesterday pleading for help after the boat's skipper - understood to be his cousin - was helped ashore by desperate family members. The skipper stopped breathing on the beach.
The boy's parents, who were also onboard the doomed vessel, had remained at the rocky shoreline with the 57-year-old man while the teenager rushed to raise the alarm. His father was also injured.
"He [the boy] said it was an emergency ... the boat tipped over, and they had managed to get the skipper to the shore," Mr Dallmeier said.
"He had to climb up a steep grass hill first, then he came up to some paddocks and then came up to my house."
While his wife rang emergency services, Mr Dallmeier handed the teen - who only had shorts and dive boots on - a jacket before driving back to the stricken family.
Rescue helicopters winched the injured father to safety and also retrieved the skipper's body, in a dramatic air rescue.
When the pair climbed back down the cliff - about 30m high - to the beach, the boat's skipper was already dead, Mr Dallmeier said.
"When I went down ... the woman said he [the skipper] was dead. The husband ... had a back injury and he was in pain.
"The woman, she was shivering - my neighbour, she brought a jacket ... and gave her something to put on. I think they [the family] tried on the guy to do CPR."
Waves near where the family's 3.6m aluminium boat had capsized were about two metres in size, Mr Dallmeier said.
"They wanted to take a crayfish pot out of the water or something like that ... and then there was a big wave - the boy told me. It was an incoming tide as well."
Police yesterday confirmed the man who died was a 57-year-old Mahia resident.
The teen's father, who is 48, was winched by the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter from the rocky beach to the cliff top where the Eastland Rescue Helicopter flew him to Hawkes Bay Regional Hospital.
The man who died was taken to Wairoa Hospital by the Lowe Corporation crew.
St John Ambulance staff also attended, and clambered down the cliff after taking a ute to the accident site, a spokesman said.
The teen and his mother, aged 40, were checked by staff.
Their boat was washed up on nearby rocks.