January 2, 1976
Thirty-seven years ago, Trevor Watkins watched a shark attack his best friend. Mr Watkins tried to save John Leith, but his wounds were too bad and he died in Mr Watkins' arms.
The pair and Mr Watkins' older brother Grahame, all from Tokoroa, were spearfishing from a dinghy one afternoon off Te Kaha.
They were about 150m offshore in water about 4m deep.
"I heard him scream and I looked over to him and he was waving his arms. I swam over to him and the water was thick with blood and I knew something had happened," Mr Watkins said.
"I knew it was probably dangerous to go over there, but you'd do anything for your mates, wouldn't you?
"I held him out of the water until my brother brought the boat over. We put him in the boat and I tried to revive him and stop the blood. He'd been bitten right up in the groin. He'd been bitten a couple of times.
"I brought him back to life a couple of times, but by the time we'd gotten back to the rocks, he'd died."
Mr Watkins has no idea what type of shark bit his best friend, he couldn't see any sign of it by the time he reached him in the water and was too busy trying to keep Mr Leith alive to look when they were in the boat.
Mr Watkins, in his early 20s at the time, said Mr Leith, 27, was his best mate and his death hit him hard.
"It was quite traumatic. I couldn't sleep for a few weeks.
"We were great mates, we worked together and everything. It affected me a lot when he died. It took a while to get over it.
"But in life, things happen," Mr Watkins said. "But I can say that now because it was a long time ago."
Mr Leith left behind a wife, Lynn, and two young children, Barry and Sharon.
About a year and a half after Mr Leith died, Mr Watkins and Mrs Leith started to grow close.
"I didn't really know her. Me and John were just mates, we hunted together, fished together. And then about a year and a half later I started seeing her and it all happened. We married about five years later.
"I brought his two kids up and we had one of our own."
The marriage ended about nine years ago.
Mr Watkins now works at the Kinleith Mill and still lives in Tokoroa with his new partner, Rita Van Houtun.
And even 37 years on, Mr Watkins hasn't dived since that day in January.
"I tried about six months after it happened, but I couldn't do it."
Grahame Watkins, who lives in Waihi, also hasn't been able to dive since Mr Leith's death.
But Mr Watkins said: "I'm not putting anything against sharks.
"The way I look at it is, we're swimming in their domain and if you want to swim in their domain then things like that happen. I don't think sharks are really that bad."
http://www.nzherald.co.nzThe way I look at it is, we're swimming in their domain and if you want to swim in their domain then things like that happen. I don't think sharks are really that bad.