'Absolutely elating': Southern Lakes Helicopters' boss reacts to three crew found alive

Lloyd Matheson says it's "absolutely elating" three crew members were found alive after a private helicopter crashed near the Auckland Islands, south of New Zealand.

The helicopter, operated by Southern Lakes, was travelling to the islands, about 460km south of New Zealand, for a medical evacuation, when it went missing on Monday night.

Matheson, operations manager for the Te Anau-based Southern Lakes, told Newshub a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion had flown over the islands most of the night trying to locate the men, but efforts proved unsuccessful.

On Tuesday morning, three choppers resumed the search - two from Heli Otago and one from Southern Lakes.

Rescue helicopters arrive at Southland Hospital.
Rescue helicopters arrive at Southland Hospital. Photo credit: Dave Goosselink/Newshub.

The news then came late Tuesday morning the three men had been found walking around at the north-eastern end of Auckland Island, near Rangi Cove.

Matheson said it was like all their "Christmases had come at once".

"I'm sure the next of kin are more elated than we are, but it's a fantastic end."

Matheson said pilot Andrew Hefford, St John paramedic John Lambeth, and winch crewman Lester Stevens were those on board. "Walking wounded" was his description of the three crew members.

A man with 20 years' experience as a winchman, Stevens was knocked unconscious in the crash and has facial injuries. His injuries are not deemed serious.

Lambeth, who has more than 18 years' experience, had a broken wrist.

Hefford, a vastly experienced pilot who has spent three seasons in Antarctica, was not injured.

The three men are being taken to Invercargill Hospital, and have reportedly been in contact with their families.

The owner of Southern Lakes, Sir Richard Hayes, who had been involved in rescue efforts, was earlier confirmed as the person who located the three men.

Rescue Coordination Centre shift manager Kevin Banaghan said the Civil Aviation Authority would have to ascertain what had taken place.



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