Bodies of Wanaka helicopter crash victims recovered

The bodies of the three people who died in a helicopter crash outside of Wanaka on Thursday have been recovered, police say.

DoC rangers Scott Theobald, Paul Hondelink and pilot Nick Wallis all died when the helicopter they were travelling to the West Coast in crashed.

Mr Wallis was the helicopter's pilot and had worked with DoC for several years.

His brother Matt Wallis was killed in a separate helicopter crash in July.

Scott Theobald was a DoC ranger known for introducing dogs to DoC's work. Paul Hondelink was a biodiversity specialist.

Earlier on Friday, DoC director-general Lou Sanson described the ordeal as one of the most difficult times in his career. He said the victims "believed" in what they were doing.

"Scott was born to kill pests," he said of Scott Theobald.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said the victims were flying to undertake tahr control in the Haast area when their helicopter crashed.

"This is a tragedy for their families and DOC staff are also reeling from the loss of these highly skilled, dedicated and experienced professionals," she said.

"Paul Hondelink and Scott Theobald were each conservation legends and pioneers in their respective fields. The loss of Paul Hondelink and Scott Theobald as individuals and the loss of their conservation knowledge and expertise is deeply felt."

She also noted how Scott Theobald started DoC's work with conservation dogs and "has provided his expertise internationally including to help control mongoose in Japan".

Again, she said, his loss is "hard to quantify it is so great".

Ms Sage visited the DOC Twizel office where Paul Hondelink and Scott Theobald worked and the Wanaka office where Paul Hondelink worked for many years. She also met with the families.

The victims' bodies have been taken to Christchurch for post mortems to be carried out.

A blessing was held at the site of the crash with family, friends and colleagues attending.

Police are continuing their inquiries.