Exclusive footage of the helicopter wreck three survivors escaped from

An incredible tale of survival - three of the country's most experienced rescue helicopter crew members plucked from a remote island in the Southern Ocean 500 kilometres south of Invercargill after their helicopter crashed just before 8pm on Monday night.

The trio from Southern Lakes Helicopters had to swim to shore in freezing water, and put to use all of their survival skills in one of the most inhospitable locations on the planet.

Newshub has obtained exclusive footage shows exactly what the three helicopter crew escaped from.

The ghostly white shape of the body of the helicopter can be seen lying in shallow water next to a very steep cliff, which gives some idea of how difficult their ordeal was and how frightening it was for the owner of the helicopter line who flew all the way South in the hope of saving his mates. 

"We didn't expect to find what we saw standing on the beach three guys, in their immersion suits really, really a win for us today," said Sir Richard Hayes.

A survival against horrendous odds - the three men arriving at Southland Hospital fifteen hours after having ditched their machine into the Southern Ocean last night.

"It's incredible story, particularly getting out of a machine in water for starters but at night and making it to shore safely that's incredible," said Lloyd Matheson from Southern Lakes Helicopters.

The trio, which included experienced Pilot Andrew Hefford, paramedic John Lambeth and winch operator Lester Stevens set out in their helicopter late yesterday to winch an injured person off a boat South of the Auckland Islands - a job Matheson says is a routine one for the experienced crew with thousands of flying hours and rescue missions under their belts.

"The way the weather conditions were, we chose to fly to Enderby islands last night in preparation for a winch off the vessel this morning," said Matheson.

But the twin engine helicopter lost radio contact near Yule Island at 7.37pm on Monday night.

A search was launched - five fishing boats were sent to the area and just before 10am on Tuesday morning a door from the wreckage was found. 

Then just before midday Southern Lakes Helicopter owner Sir Richard Hayes, who'd joined the rescue, spotted his missing crew walking on a beach at Ranui Cove on the North Eastern side of Auckland Island.

He picked them up and flew them to nearby Enderby Island for refuelling before flying back to Invercargill.

The group was reunited at Southern Lakes Helicopters based in Te Anau with lots of stories to tell about a frantic night of worry.  

"It's like all our Christmas's have come at once. I am sure the next of kin are more elated than we are, but it's a fantastic end for an operation that started off pretty simple," Matheson told Newshub.

He says despite their incredible ordeal the crew appears to have suffered only moderate injuries - and are being checked over at Southland Hospital.

"I understand John's got a possible broken wrist, Lester's got some facial injuries, walking wounded," he said.

A rescue crew who've rescued and saved countless numbers of people themselves - today they were the ones needing rescue.



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