The skipper of a boat that went down off the Otago coast was still making the mayday call when his friends dragged him off.
Four people were rescued this morning after their boat began to sink.
Police said the Rescue Coordination Centre received the mayday at 10.34am, when the boat was around 18km from the Taieri River mouth.
A police spokesperson said the people, who were believed to be fishing, were winched out of the water by helicopter around 11.40am and dropped off at a picnic ground where an ambulance was waiting.
Rescue Coordination Centre spokesman Steve Rendle said the men were heading out on a fishing trip when their boat, which was a six-metre vessel, started filling with water.
He said it filled up so quickly the skipper was being dragged off the boat by his friends while he was trying to finish the mayday call.
"It went down very fast. They all had life jackets, and they had flares, so they were a very well-organised group," he said.
"When the helicopter arrived they were in a group together... they knew the right thing to do."
Rendle said the rescue helicopter pilot was very impressed with the know-how of the men, because their preparedness made a big difference.
One of the men may have hypothermia, but the others were fine, he said.