Wife of crash survivor speaks: 'I was holding out hope – you have to'

Sandra Stevens' heart sank when she opened her door on Monday night to see Sir Richard Hayes and Lloyd Matheson standing there.

The pair, the chief pilot and operations manager of Southern Lakes Helicopters respectively, were there to say her her husband Lester, winch operator on a helicopter on a rescue mission near the Auckland Islands, was missing along with the two other crew men.

"As soon as they turned up at the door, I knew something was wrong."

Sandra Stevens. Photo: ODT
Sandra Stevens. Photo: ODT
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times the day after hearing all three had been found alive and well, Mrs Stevens said she then sat at up all night trying to "think the best".

"I was holding out hope – you have to."

Not long after the police rang  yesterday with the "fantastic" news Sir Richard had found them on a beach on Enderby Island, she got to speak with her husband by satellite phone.

"He just rang to say he was OK."

She was "not surprised in the slightest" it was Sir Richard who found the men.

She and two of the couple's three children met him at Southland Hospital yesterday evening and drove him straight home.

"We're just so glad he's alive."

Their daughter Rebecca said the long night and morning of waiting brought back the anxiety she had felt as a child about her father's work; he was a policeman before going to work for Southern Lakes Helicopters.

"But you just assume something like this would never happen."

Mrs Stevens said the ordeal would not shake her husband's appetite for rescue work.

"If he got another callout today, he would be out there."

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