A man has died in hospital after being swept out to sea near Auckland’s Bethells Beach yesterday afternoon.

The man had been in critical condition at Auckland City Hospital after being found unconscious in the water.

Police said he was rescued alongside three others, who suffered minor injuries.

Emergency services were first alerted to the incident at around 5.40pm yesterday.

A police spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with their family and friends at this difficult time. The death will now be referred to the coroner.”

“Surf Life Saving crews retrieved three people from the water with minor injuries and a fourth person was located by the Westpac helicopter and retrieved by the police launch Deodar vessel.”

Surf Life Saving patrol captain at the beach, Kael Mead, told 1News earlier: “After the cyclone, we’ve had a whole bunch of sand deposited across our normal rip currents, so we have quite a long trench running along the beach that pulls quite strongly out to sea.”

It’s believed a strong rip current pulled the men out to sea yesterday.

At the beach, a single strong wave or current can sweep a person out to sea – even in what appears to be shallow water, with depths able to change suddenly.

A local surfer told 1News they often found swimmers unaware of the conditions.

Bethells Beach is a coastal community in rural Auckland, around 40km westwards from central Auckland. It’s a popular holiday destination during the summer.