One of seven Venezuelans whose boat capsized near Aruba has died after attack moments before he was to be pulled to safety.

A Venezuelan man whose boat capsized off Aruba in the Caribbean has died after a shark attacked him in the middle of a rescue attempt by coastguards.

The Dutch Caribbean coastguard said the man, who was one of seven Venezuelan men thrown into the sea after their boat sank, was moments from safety when the attack took place.

In an extraordinary tale of terrible luck, spokesman Roderick Gouverneur said that the man was clinging to a rescue buoy when he was spotted by the coastguard helicopter, which lowered a rescuer to winch him to safety.

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

However, just as the rescuer was about to reach him, the man was attacked by a shark, suffering fatal injuries.

The rescuers were able to reach him after the attack, but the man died on Saturday on the way to the hospital.

Gouverneur said four others who held onto a refrigerator and pallet were recovering from dehydration after being rescued.

Two other men died when they sank with the boat.

The men were traveling from Bonaire to Aruba to sell whiskey. Venezuelans often travel on boats laden with goods to sell throughout the Dutch Caribbean islands.

It is not known what species of shark was responsible for the attack, but tiger sharks are common in Caribbean waters.

Associated Press contributed to this report