Woman died diving with husband at Island Bay in Wellington gallery video

Cameron Burnell / Stuff.co.nz

A 37-year-old woman died while diving with husband at Island Bay in Wellington.

Two builders rushed to a beach in a desperate effort to save a woman who died while diving with her husband in Wellington. 

Andy Morris and Peter Ryan were working on a property opposite Island Bay's snorkel trail, around the bay from the main beach, when a man came tearing across the road shouting for help about 2pm on Monday.

Morris, a certified diver who knows CPR, and Ryan followed the man to the rocks, where his diving partner lay with her scuba gear beside her.

Police and ambulance staff at a beach near Island Bay in Wellington, where a 37-year-old woman died while diving.
CAMERON BURNELL/ FAIRFAX NZ

Police and ambulance staff at a beach near Island Bay in Wellington, where a 37-year-old woman died while diving.

Ryan called 111 as Morris tried to resuscitate her. "She had blue lips, and no response," Morris said.

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"She was maybe in her 30s. She was just in her wetsuit, no tank, I think maybe her dive partner took her tank off."

Andy Morris tried in vain to resuscitate a woman who died diving off the Island Bay coastline on Monday afternoon.
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Andy Morris tried in vain to resuscitate a woman who died diving off the Island Bay coastline on Monday afternoon.

"We were just hoping for her to spit the water out," Ryan said.

The operator on the 111 line was coaching the men through their CPR effort, telling them to do 30 chest compressions followed by two breaths, and repeating.

"They were pretty helpful," Morris said.

Police and ambulance at the scene of a diving incident in Island Bay, where a diver failed to surface.
PAUL EAGLE/ SUPPLIED

Police and ambulance at the scene of a diving incident in Island Bay, where a diver failed to surface.

A runner who told the pair she was a doctor stopped and helped them remove the woman's wetsuit to aid the resuscitation effort. 

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Within about eight minutes, an ambulance had arrived, the men said. Meanwhile, the woman's husband was sitting in shock on the rocks.

Sarah Morris, who lives in the house the two builders were working on, also went to help the woman, but feared she was already dead once she saw her.

At her Esplanade home, Morris said she and both the men were in shock they could not save the woman.

 "It's so ghastly, she just woke up like it was going to be an ordinary day," she said.

Police at the scene confirmed a 37-year-old woman died at the scene, despite the efforts of her husband in bringing her to shore.

Police national dive squad head Senior Sergeant Bruce Adams said the husband and wife had been in the water about 45 minutes when he saw she was "in distress".

The pair were thought to be in shallow water and the man managed to bring his wife closer to shore.

Adams said it was unclear how and why the woman had got into trouble.

"Tragically, this is the fourth diving fatality here in Wellington since Christmas and unfortunately, staff have just returned from recovering two [divers' bodies] from Great Barrier [Island] as well yesterday."

Eight divers had died in New Zealand since summer began.

"With a long stretch of fine weather, more divers have returned to the water, but regardless of whether your last dive was last year or last week, we must all remember the basic diving safety principals to make sure we surface safely at the end of the dive."

Adams said safety measures included saying within the diver's abilities, doing a refresher course if diving infrequently, checking diving equipment, monitoring weather conditions, ending the dive with plenty of air supply to get back to shore, having a dive medical, avoiding alcohol or drugs with water sports and having a plan for when difficulties arose during a dive.

Wellington city councillor Paul Eagle, who lives on The Esplanade, said there were four ambulances and three police cars outside his house about 2.30pm.

"There was a flurry of activity and they were bringing up plastic bags from the beach and talking to some people," he said.

Island Bay Marine Education Centre discovery programme manager Julian Hodge said there had been a group of school children snorkelling at Island Bay, but they had been leaving as ambulances began to arrive.

He knew little about what had happened, but said the incident happened on the snorkel trail, about 300m down from Island Bay beach.

"We saw the ambulance and police cars going past and commented among staff that we hoped it wasn't another diver, there's been a few now."

The incident is the fourth diving death off Wellington's south coast this summer.

A woman died after being pulled from the water at Owhiro Bay on January 26.

Willie Collins, cousin of the late All Black Jerry Collins, died on December 20 while scuba diving.

A 45-year-old man was found by another diver on the sea floor near Red Rocks on December 12.

 - Stuff

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