The wreckage of the Southern Lakes helicopter which plunged into the Southern Ocean last month with three crew members aboard, was salvaged over the weekend.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (Taic) gave permission for a third party to recover the helicopter wreckage from the sea near Enderby Island.

On April 22, the BK-117 helicopter was on its way to help with a medical evacuation of a person from a ship near the Auckland Islands, 450km south of New Zealand, when it crashed with pilot Andrew Hefford, winchman Lester Stevens and paramedic John Lambeth on board.

All three survived the crash and swam to Enderby Island, where they spent the night before being rescued the following day.


The helicopter was removed at the request of the Department of Conservation, because it was in a protected marine environment.

Southern Lakes Helicopters Ltd operations manager Lloyd Matheson would not say where the wreckage was now being stored, but the Otago Daily Times understands it is somewhere in Bluff.

Following legal advice, Matheson said the wreckage would now be inspected as part of the various investigations into the incident, and Southern Lakes was co-operating fully with the investigations.

However, he could not comment further while the investigations were continuing, he said.

Taic chief investigator Tim Burfoot said the commission had issued an order protecting the wreckage and the accident site, and any evidence found should be handed to the commission.

He declined to comment on what the investigation had found so far or what might have caused the crash.

He said the investigation was expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.