A Kiwi rescue paramedic dragged an unconscious and critically injured co-pilot from the cockpit of a crashed cargo plane after it slammed into a mountain near Mt Everest.
Paramedic Andrew Roy was one of three Kiwis involved in the dramatic rescue on Saturday just below the runway of Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla, Nepal.
The mangled wreckage was surround by highly flammable jet fuel and resting 20m below the runway off a steep cliff face.
Witnesses said Roy, part of a newly established Air Dynasty medical team assembled by South Island high-altitude rescue pilot Andrew Gutsell, quickly took charge.
The 24-year-old cut open the cockpit, giving rescuers access to the pilot, who didn't survive the crash, and the co-pilot. Roy pulled the co-pilot from the wreckage after directing a team who were able to pull a conscious but critically injured air hostess to safety.
"The plane was a complete wreck but after making sure it was safe and secure I was able to find my way to and assess both pilots," said Roy, a former NZ kayaking representative from Mt Maunganui.
"One pilot was dead, most likely on impact, but I was able to reach the co-pilot from the underside of the plane. He was alive, though trapped and unconscious. I found a small opening and was able to cut through obstructing metal to free the co-pilot.
"We were extremely lucky to retrieve all three on board and give the co-pilot and hostess their best chance at survival."
The team of New Zealand medics have been described as heroes for their roles in the daring rescue.
Fellow Maunganui medic and Air Dynasty flight nurse Alyssa Lowe said Roy worked in dangerous conditions and described his actions as both brave and skilful.
"I have no idea how he got the pilots out of there. The plane was on the side of a cliff, reeked of jet fuel, and the army were hitting it with axes, causing the wreckage to spark. I thought it was going to blow. His professionalism and courage were next to none."
Roy and Lowe, 29, are two of three in the Air Dynasty team. They, along with American Harvard medical professor Terez Malka, treat patients who need to be airlifted out of the Himalayas and off Mt Everest.
Despite the team's best efforts the co-pilot died during the night of serious brain trauma inflicted on impact, taking the death toll to two.
The hostess was flown to Kathmandu in a stable but critical condition the next morning when weather improved.
I have no idea how he got the pilots out of there. The plane was on the side of a cliff, reeked of jet fuel, and the army were hitting it with axes, causing the wreckage to spark. I thought it was going to blow. His professionalism and courage were next to none.
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"Andrew and Alyssa were phenomenal," said Malka. "To have gotten her through the night and until weather improved the next morning; everything had to be done right. It was."
Gutsell, 30, described his team as "heroes", saying lives are at risk every day in the region.
"Incidents like this are the reason we put this medical team together, and why more training, capability and funding is required in the future. The fact the highest mountain on earth and surrounding high-risk areas do not have their own search and rescue team, air ambulance service or medical system says it all. The limited resources in the valley are stretched to the limit and need updating."