The bodies of liquor magnate Michael Erceg and companion Guus Klatte were last night found in the wreckage of their helicopter in dense bush on farmland near Raglan.

Mr Erceg, 50 - one of the country's richest men with an estimated fortune of $620 million - and Mr Klatte, 38, a Dutch beer company executive, are believed to have died on impact.

The nearly new Eurocopter disappeared on November 4 after Mr Erceg and Mr Klatte took off from Ardmore Airport on a flight to Queenstown.

After two weeks of intensive searching, the remains of the helicopter were discovered at 7pm last night in a gully between two ridges on a dairy farm about 400m from Te Hutewai Rd, just 15 minutes south of Raglan.

Both bodies were still inside.

The wreckage was located in the same area that the original search had taken place a fortnight ago.

Mr Erceg's brother Ivan, who had been co-ordinating search efforts over the past week, was notified shortly after the wreckage was discovered.

He told the Herald on Sunday from the crash scene last night that the Erceg family would forever be thankful for the support and goodwill they had received from the public.

"We had hoped for a different outcome. The task was to find them as quickly as possible.

"The outcome was not what we expected," Mr Erceg said. "We will, in the best way we can, find a way forward and I have to hold the grieving back until this is done."

Mr Klatte's partner Floor Heering was devastated last night on hearing the news.

"I just can't believe it's true. It's so sad. What did we do all that searching for?"

Yesterday's discovery followed a day of renewed hope after Mr Erceg claimed he had heard his brother cry out "We're down here" over an emergency radio beacon as he and several others flew over Mt Pirongia near Kawhia Harbour.

After a day of scouring a two to three square kilometre section around Mt Pirongia, part of the wreckage was seen from the air by two police officers in a final swoop of the area at 7pm.

It was well hidden in dense bush and could not be seen from land.

A witness who heard Mr Erceg's helicopter "winding down" a fortnight ago as it passed over her Raglan property said last night police had told her partner both men had died on impact.

"It's so sad. I really felt they were still alive.

"It is a heartbreaker," she said.

The discovery was made two weeks to the day that the country woke to news that Erceg's helicopter had disappeared off the radar. The official search, led by the National Rescue Co-ordination Centre, was called off after four days.

Since then the family have been funding a private search, and had even arranged for help from the Pentagon in the form of satellite pictures of aircraft flight pictures. Specialist radar from Sweden was also to be used.

The fortnight has been dominated by sadness, trauma and controversy, as Ivan Erceg heavily criticised the NRCC for calling off the search too early - and a host of other flaws he believed hindered finding his missing younger brother.

The family had always insisted Mr Erceg would have turned back from New Plymouth after hitting bad weather, a belief that led to them focusing on the area around Mt Pirongia. It was an area they said NRCC had overlooked - and it was where the helicopter was ultimately discovered yesterday.

Ivan Erceg and Ms Herring, 35, spoke on Friday night of their anger at having to seek technical help overseas after being turned away by New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre.

"It's the issue of abandonment that will be discussed at a later time," said Ivan Erceg.

"It's vital bureaucracy does not overwhelm the good intent of the ordinary New Zealander.

"If you don't review and don't update, then rot sets in. I suspect the rot has set in in the RCC."

Ivan Erceg said the family had approached the United States Embassy in Wellington for help and, late on Friday night, a Pentagon colonel called to extend an offer of

assistance. The Pentagon had detailed satellite photographs which showed aircraft flights, and these were to be made available to the family to aid their search.

Roger Smith, who was also helping co-ordinate the search, said the Swedish government would be flying out Synthetic Aperture Radar, which could be used to search beneath tree foliage, after an approach to the Dutch government.

Mr Smith said: "It's ridiculous we have had to go all the way round the world to get these resources and yet we haven't even been allowed to deploy the resources we have in New Zealand.

"If it is proved they didn't die on impact that will be the worst possible thing because these resources have been withheld from us when it could have made a difference."

Other frustrations have also emerged after it was revealed Swiss satellite recordings which had been collected by the official search were passed on to the family without being checked by the RCC.

The battle with the RCC brought Mr Erceg's Clevedon MP, Judith Collins, into the fray. She was contacted by the family after they had been told they could not use a NZ Air Force Orion in the search.

"It sounds as if the RCC is not being as helpful as we would expect. I would have thought they would do anything they could to help a family which is desperate and happy to foot the bill themselves. It seems nonsensical and hard-hearted."

Despite the controversy, family, friends and workmates tirelessly put everything they had into looking for the two men, keeping to a gruelling timetable. Ivan Erceg had told the Herald on Sunday many of his nights were sleepless, and he would often not get to bed until 3am, only to rise again at dawn.

As many as 13 helicopters were used and more than 100 volunteers and other searchers with dogs, scoured the valley and ridges on the eastern slopes of Mt Pirongia.

The Ercegs hired interviewers to go back to the people who had reported seeing or hearing the helicopter to try to sort through conflicting reports and false sightings.

On Friday, hopes of finding the two men alive were buoyed after a voice was heard over radio by four witnesses repeatedly saying "we're down here". Ivan Erceg was one of the witnesses to the voices, heard while flying along the slopes of Mt Pirongia. He said the entire cockpit was stunned to hear what sounded like a low frequency tranmission, and that the voices gave a great deal of hope. "The sounds were male. There was no laughing, it was said in a monotone and said repeatedly."

The voice was followed yesterday morning by reports from a radio ham operator of a series of signals from a beacon in the same area, and then again by trampers who heard the sound of metal being struck from deep within the bush.

But in the end the news was not good.

Michael Erceg is survived by his wife Lynnette and her son. His mother Millie, yacht-making brother Ivan, and sister Vinka all live in Auckland.

Mr Erceg lost his eldest sister and close confidante Marieanna to cancer a couple of years ago.

- HERALD ON SUNDAY