Rescue helicopter crew spent part of Wednesday night searching for English tourists who went missing on the Whanganui River.

The missing people were found safe the next morning, having unknowingly stopped to stay the night just around the corner from their destination.

Sergeant Colin Wright said the two canoeists were staying with family in Raetihi, and were taken in the family jet boat up the river to the Mangapurua Landing.

"They were going to paddle back to Pipiriki before dark," Mr Wright said. "Unfortunately they didn't make it in time and family reported them overdue about 7pm.

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"They had been seen near Ramanui Lodge about 4pm in good spirits and paddling south."

Mr Wright, who was in charge of the search, spoke to the pair's cousin, but was unable to put anyone on the water to search for them as it was unsafe in the dark.

He contacted the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter, which picked up a police search and rescue member before searching from Pipiriki to the Bridge to Nowhere - Mangapurua Landing - and back without finding anyone.

Mr Wright said there was mist on the water.

The rescue crew returned to base after being unable to find the people.

"The next morning the search was recommenced on the water by the informants' jet boat, other jet boat operators and DOC jet boat."

But the pair turned up safe and sound about 8.30am at the Whanganui River Adventures office, and Mr Wright was contacted about their appearance.

"I spoke to one of the pair who said they had reached a point in the dark where they decided it wasn't safe to proceed on the river. They saw a light in a building and decided to stay the night. It turns out this building was just around the corner from Pipiriki on the opposite bank."

Mr Wright said the man he spoke to was "very apologetic to me for the fuss they had created".

The rest of the week was busy for the rescue chopper crew, who went out to Raetihi for a farmer who had suffered a serious leg injury in a fall.

Pilot Lance Burns said he was not completely sure, but thought the farmer had been herding cattle, and hurt himself jumping away when the animals were "running away out of control".

The man was flown to Whanganui Hospital.

On Wednesday the crew were busy with a mid-morning call out to Taihape for a woman in her 40s suffering a medical event, followed immediately by a mission to Ohakune where an elderly lady was also suffering a medical event.

Both were flown to Whanganui Hospital.

Then on Saturday night the rescue crew used a high-powered search light, night vision goggles and an infra red search device to look for someone who set off a distress flare off the coast of Whanganui.

Police and Coastguard also assisted in the search, but they found nothing.

Mr Moody said they searched "long enough" to know the area they were told to search was clear.