When it was decided to launch Holmes, I was invited to be one of the start-up team.

The first night we had what we thought was a good line-up, including an interview with John Russell, a person who'd never been publicly identified as a prime suspect in the Kirsa Jensen murder. I got his first television interview.

And we had the Denis Connor interview, which we were all geared up for. We had a suspicion he would walk out — and he did. Everyone was against us when the reviews came out after that. Even at TVNZ a lot of people thought we had gone too far.

Later, I went down with Paul [Holmes] to film on a marae at Tikitiki. We'd flown in a light plane to Gisborne then choppered to Tikitiki.


It had been bucketing down with rain but we were on a deadline to get back because Paul was doing a speaking engagement in Auckland. We all jumped into the chopper and it steamed up a bit but there was still good vision.

None of us had any idea what happened but the next thing, we were upside down in the water, with no warning.

It's difficult to work out how to get out of your seatbelt and out the door when you're in that position. Our cameraman, Joe von Dinklage, didn't come out, so I dived down and went searching for him, grabbed his leg and shocked him into action.

It was right on dusk — almost dark. We were probably 800m to 1km from shore and it was quite squally. I said no one would turn up to rescue us because no one knew where we were. And though I had the emergency locator beacon, I knew no plane was going to fly over and it was too cold to stay there, so we decided to swim for it.

But Joe couldn't swim. In those days, I was fit and healthy, doing triathlons and so on, so I took Joe. But a couple of times when squalls came along and water lapped in his face he grabbed me and I had to fight him off and then take him again. The third time it happened we lost him altogether.

He didn't survive but the rest of us got ashore. I didn't know where we were. I climbed up the cliff and felt, rather than saw, we were on a farm track. We had to decide in the dark which way to go and we chose left because we'd seen lights further down the coast that way.

The pilot and I practically had to carry Paul because he was quite hypothermic by now. We got to the farm and the old couple there ran him a bath but I was chosen to strip him and get him into it.

It was a life-changing moment. I got home and thought: what's this life about? You realise you've escaped death, that life is precious and you've got to try to make the most of it.

The next day a friend jacked me up on a date and three months later we were married.

The marriage didn't work out but the lovely daughter we had together did.

And to finish off the year, I managed to crack a sub-three marathon.

As told to Paul Little.

David Lomas is the host of Lost and Found on Three, Monday's at 8.30pm