You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Three people have been found alive after their helicopter crashed near the Auckland Islands.
Maritime New Zealand said a rescue helicopter spotted the group walking on a beach on the north-eastern side of the island, 465km south of New Zealand, wearing their cold water immersion suits this morning.
"The group is safe and well. The helicopter that found them is transporting them to Enderby Island where there is shelter before returning to mainland New Zealand," Maritime New Zealand said.
The group on a Southern Lakes Helicopters aircraft had been helping with a medical evacuation of a person from a ship near Macquarie Island yesterday. Southern Lakes Helicopters raised the alarm in the evening after communication with the helicopter was lost.
Te Anau-based news outlet Advocate South reported that the company's owner, Sir Richard Hayes, located the trio - pilot Andrew Hefford, paramedic John Lambeth and winch operator Lester Stevens - on a beach this morning.
Southern Lakes Helicopter operations manager Lloyd Matheson told Advocate South that Sir Richard flew one of three additional helicopters that went south this morning to assist with the search.
He was first to arrive and reported all three were "on a beach safe and sound".
The person who had needed the medical evacuation was being transported to Bluff on a marine vessel.
Mr Matheson said no details were available yet on exactly what had happened. All he could confirm was that, on descent to Enderby Island about 7.30pm yesterday, communications with the helicopter were lost.
The crew had carried four means of communications, but nobody had been able to make contact via any of them, he said.
The helicopter had been deployed to assist with the medical evacuation of a person from a ship near Macquarie Island. The plan was for the crew to stay the night on Enderby Island and rendezvous with the ship which was travelling towards them at first light this morning.
The crew had gone last night because a storm was forecast, and they wanted to stay ahead of the weather, Mr Matheson said.
He said fishing boats had been quick to assist with the search, but had been unable to get close to the beaches so it was Sir Richard who was first to spot them.
Mr Matheson said he might owe his colleague and good mate at Southern Lakes Helicopters a beer.
Mr Matheson, a winch operator with the Te Anau company, was supposed to be on yesterday's medevac mission. But due to a funeral, he swapped places at the last minute.
"I definitely have some mixed feelings about the whole situation, I was meant to be there but asked my mate to stand in for me," he told the New Zealand Herald.
He said he was "elated to hear they are safe, this is the best news, it is like 10 Christmases have come at once."
The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said in a statement about 10.20am today that a fishing boat involved in the search had found wreckage from the helicopter in the Southern Ocean.
RCCNZ duty manager Kevin Banaghan said search efforts had been centred around Yule Island, the helicopter's last known location.
The crew of the helicopter were trained for emergency situations and would have been wearing cold water immersion suits, while a life raft and satellite phone would have been on board, Mr Banaghan said.
An Air Force P-3 Orion searched for them using its specialist locator equipment. Five fishing boats were also involved.
An Otago Helicopters spokesman said the company was not involved in the medical transfer last night, but had deployed two helicopters to assist in the search this morning.
Lakes District Air Rescue Trust secretary Ed Halson said the trust was not involved in the search for the missing helicopter.
- Otago Daily Times and NZME.