Missing trampers Dion Reynolds, Jessica O'Connor found alive

Missing trampers Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor have been found alive, police confirmed.

They had been missing in Kahurangi National Park in the northern South Island for nearly three weeks and were found in the head waters of the Fraser Stream just before 1pm by a search helicopter.

St John says it met the rescue helicopter at Nelson Airport at 2:01pm on Wednesday, assessed the trampers and took them to Nelson Hospital with minor injuries.

Nelson Bays area commander Paul Borrell says he's "very proud" of the search and rescue team.

"This is a fantastic outcome and one that we were all hoping for, although we were becoming increasingly concerned as the days progressed.

"I am so very, very proud of our Search and Rescue team made up largely of volunteers and supported by Police."

The pair, both aged 23, entered the park on May 9 near the Anatori River car park. They failed to return back in time and hadn't been heard from since their departure.

Initial indications show they became lost within the first days of their tramp due to fog. They chose to stay put, however they ran out of food some time before the helicopter rescued them.

Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor were rescued after they were missing for 18 days.
Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor were rescued after they were missing for 18 days. Photo credit: Stuff Limited

A Royal New Zealand Airforce helicopter was deployed to scan the dense bush for any sign of heat or light, but it found nothing. Police also used search dogs, drones and land teams to hunt for the trampers, but found little sign of them.

Bad weather also hampered the search in the bush's rugged terrain, with heavy rain falling in the area. It meant rescuers in more exposed parts had to hold off their search, but those in safer areas could continue.

The extensive searching didn't uncover any solid sign of them. All that was found were footprints and an abandoned campsite near the Webb River on Thursday, but it wasn't confirmed this belonged to Reynolds and O'Connor.

Sherp Tucker, who has worked in search and rescue since the 1960s - but wasn't involved in this search - said the area is full of bluffs and dense vegetation.

"This is a true wilderness area and the restriction on travel is mainly because of the vegetation, but if these people have outdoor skills and fitness on their side and they've taken the right kind of gear, there's no reason they aren't still alive," he told RNZ last week.