A panicked diver drowned after failing to follow basic safety steps, a coroner has found.
Glen Taylor, of Auckland, drowned while diving off Moturua Island in the Bay of Islands in November 2011.
In a report into Taylor's death released today, coroner Brandt Shortland said Taylor was with a group of friends collecting shellfish and crayfish.
During the group's third dive of the day, Taylor was seen to surface between 50 and 100 metres from the boat, waving his arms in distress.
He pulled off his mask and shouted, "Hurry, hurry".
By the time his companions reached where he had been, he had disappeared.
Within a short time boats and divers were searching for him, and he was found by a police diver in kelp at a depth of about 18 metres, lying face down on the sea floor.
Taylor's regulator was out of his mouth and his mask and snorkel were lying on a rock about half a metre away. The gauge on his tank read empty.
The police national dive squad examined Taylor's equipment and reviewed his experience.
It found that he was a relatively inexperienced diver, despite having 20 previous dives.
"Underwater, he began to have difficulty breathing and then realised he had effectively depleted his cylinder contents and needed to return to the surface immediately," the coroner said.
"When he did reach the surface he was clearly in distress.
"It was the police view that at this particular point Mr Taylor could have performed those basic safety actions that may have saved his life. That being the dropping of his weight belt or inflating his BCD [buoyancy control device].
"The police affirm that failure by Mr Taylor to drop his weight belt and inflate his BCD was a contradiction to safe diving practices.
"However, it is understandable his actions were likely to occur in a panicked state such as he found himself in."
The coroner found that it was an unnecessary death that could have been prevented by good diving practices.