Paramedic from Auckland Islands helicopter crash recalls saving colleague's life

The paramedic on board a helicopter which crashed in the southern ocean has recalled saving his colleague's life.

John Lambeth, Andrew Hefford and Lester Stevens reunited on Friday; still a bit stiff and sore as they sat in front of the media to tell their tale of survival.

Lambeth, the paramedic on board, recalled the sheer terror he felt before his training kicked in.

"To my mind, I'm going to drown, I am going to drown," he said.

The experienced flyers were on a rescue mission to the Auckland Islands when their chopper went down on Monday night.

Once Lambeth reached the surface, his attention turned to helping his colleagues.

"Lester beside me here was unresponsive lying in the back of the helicopter filling up with water," said Lambeth.

Stevens, the winch operator on board, spoke to Newshub with Hefford on Thursday night and recalled nothing of the crash.

"When I came to I had no idea where I was, I had no idea why I was in the water," he said.

He knew Lambeth had pulled him to safety and, after listening to his account today, realised he'd saved his life.

Despite their injuries, the trio made it to shore, navigating their way around a cliff on one of the islands.

They huddled together in a hollowed-out log, with their immersion suits providing some warmth.

"Heff says he didn't sleep but he did, he snored a bit at one point," said Stevens.

At one point they thought they might have to eat the crabs on the island to survive, but after an agonising wait they were spotted the next day, their colleagues amazed they'd survived.

"Hugs all round, I never thought I'd get a hug off my boss," said Hefford.

As rescuers themselves, they know just how lucky they are.


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