Three people have been found alive after their helicopter crashed at sea near the Auckland Islands.
Earlier today it was revealed that a fishing boat had found wreckage from a Southern Lakes Helicopters chopper that went missing near the Auckland Islands, about 465km south of New Zealand, with three people on board.
A Rescue Coordination Centre NZ spokesman confirmed the trio were found walking on a beach. They were spotted by their boss - Southern Lakes Helicopters owner Sir Richard 'Hannibal' Hayes - who had joined the search party.
"A rescue helicopter located the group walking around on a beach on the north-eastern side of Auckland Island wearing their cold water immersion suits," Maritime NZ confirmed.
"The group is safe and well. The helicopter that found them is transporting them to Enderby Island where there is shelter before returning to mainland New Zealand."
The private helicopter had been travelling to the Auckland Islands for a medical evacuation off a fishing vessel last night but did not reach its destination. Two pilots and a medic were on board.
Southern Lakes Helicopters informed the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ its helicopter was missing at 8.15pm last night and a search operation began immediately.
RCCNZ duty manager Kevin Banaghan said a fishing boat that had been working on the search had located wreckage from the missing helicopter.
Banaghan said co-ordinated search efforts were continuing around Yule Island – the helicopter's last known location.
Five fishing boats were scouring the area and a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion had been using its radar equipment. Two helicopters had also just departed Invercargill and one from Stewart Island to join the search.
Weather conditions had been poor, with low cloud in the area, but were improving.
Kevin Gale from Heli Otago, based in Mosgiel, had also sent two choppers with medics, to the area to help in the search. They were due to arrive on the island about 12.10pm today.
He said conditions had since cleared after a front went through the area this morning, with blue skies now helping rescuers look for the missing.
Banaghan said the helicopter crew – two pilots and a medic – were trained for emergency situations and would have been wearing cold water immersion suits.
The helicopter also had a life raft and a satellite phone. He said there hadn't been any signals from the helicopter since before RCCNZ was notified it was missing last night.
The person who prompted the private medevac was being taken to Bluff on the vessel they were on.
RCCNZ spokesman Mark Dittner had earlier said the last contact with the helicopter was at 7.37pm last night near Yule Island, at the northern end of the subantarctic island group.
The private helicopter had been travelling to the Auckland Islands, about 465km south of New Zealand, for a medical evacuation but did not reach its destination, Dittner said.
Since 7.37pm there had been no signals from the helicopter nor distress beacons issued.
Southern Lakes Helicopters, in Te Anau, raised the alarm yesterday evening at about 8.15pm, Dittner said.
RCCNZ issued a mayday call last night and five fishing vessels had responded and were assisting with the search.
Southern Lakes Helicopters has been approached for comment.