An adult and a child are missing and another child is in critical condition after a dinghy capsized in Auckland this afternoon, sparking a dramatic rescue.
Witnesses said that at one stage, three people in the water were clinging to a rope thrown out to them by people onshore after the small dinghy overturned near the Mangere motorway bridge.
Senior Sergeant Ian Brenchley said the family's boat capsized about 2pm and the family were swept westward by the current.
Some of them managed to grab the pylons under the old Mangere bridge next to the motorway bridge.
"Two members of the public have jumped into the water to assist them, so that was seven people in the water at one stage and we've recovered five of those. Police search and rescue are searching for the other two bodies,'' Mr Brenchley said.
St John Ambulance Counties-Manukau operations team manager Patsy Carlyle said a child was taken to Kidz First Children's Hospital in a critical condition and eight people, including a firefighter who also went into the water in a bid to save those overboard, were taken to Middlemore Hospital in moderate condition.
The child is believed to be aged two.
Station officer Willie McDonnell said the firefighter from Mangere suffered mild hypothermia when he swam out to rescue the people clinging to the old bridge.
"We let him out on a line because you can't really afford to let anyone go in that current - it was about half tide so it was getting pretty strong.''
The firefighter came back with two people, and another rescuer set about retrieving the others.
"He got a little bit chilly, I think he got mild hypothermia.''
Mr McDonnell said the situation was ``flat out''.
"It was a little bit confused because people didn't know how many people were in the boat - I didn't even see a boat - all we found were the people clinging to the base of the bridge.''
The firefighter was treated then returned to the station.
He would be given the rest of the night off, Mr McDonnell said.
Mangere Boat Club Commodore Brian Anderson said he saw what looked like an overturned dinghy floating on the outgoing tide past the clubrooms, about 600m from the bridge.
It was a small vessel and did not look suitable to carry many people.
"Looking at it through the binoculars, that is very overloaded,'' he said.
Conditions had been fine this afternoon.
Photo: NZ Herald