People told the the lake was too choppy before fatal kayak trip

A Lake Tekapo resort manager says he told a guest the lake was too choppy for kayaking about an hour before a tragedy left two kayakers dead and nine others suffering hypothermia.

Mid-South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin says three other members of the group are in Timaru Hospital in a stable condition. Source: 1 NEWS

The group of young tourists hired kayaks and ran into difficulty after venturing out on the lake around 4.30pm yesterday and being swamped after an easterly wind picked up to an estimated 20 knots.

Lake Tekapo Search and Rescue personnel, voluntary firemen and the McKenzie Lake Coastguard, assisted by a helicopter, rescued nine people and retrieved the two bodies.

South Canterbury District Health Board said three of the survivors were at Timaru Hospital in a stable condition last night. 

Lake Tekapo Scenic Resort manager Wayne Hardaker says he told someone else, not in the group concerned, the conditions weren't suitable for kayaking.

"We had a guest ask about kayaking and I just said 'the lake's too choppy'," Mr Hardaker told ONE News.

He said it would only be an hour or so later that this tragedy happened.

The lake was like a mirror yesterday morning, then the wind got up and there were white caps in the afternoon when the group got into trouble, Mr Hardaker said.

Local residents say kayaking trips don't usually happen on the glacial lake until summer.

Police said an investigation will take place, looking at the reasons the tragedy occurred.

The names of the deceased will not be released until next of kin have been advised and the matter will be referred to the coroner, police said.