It is the miracle survival story everyone is talking about - two young trampers found alive and well after almost three weeks in rugged bush.

Before they were found however, those involved in the search for Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor say although they held on to hope the pair would be found alive, things were starting to look dire.

Flight Lieutenant Loic Ifrah, part of the crew of the Royal NZ Air Force NH90 helicopter involved in the mission, acknowledged it was getting tough.

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"We hadn't given up, obviously, otherwise we wouldn't have poured our efforts into it," he said.

"But as time went by and [there was] bad weather in the area, thoughts do turn to the worst."

Dion Reynolds. Photo / Supplied
Dion Reynolds. Photo / Supplied
Jessica O'Connor. Photo / Supplied
Jessica O'Connor. Photo / Supplied

Yesterday's incredible first sign of life - smoke - in the dense bush at Kahurangi National Park, brought a feeling that he could only describe as "euphoria".

"It was a pretty incredible spot by the crew and, of course, a pretty big effort by the LandSAR [search and rescue] and NZ Police - it was pretty impressive to watch it all unfold.

"That adds to the sense of relief and euphoria."

Members of the NZ Defence Force were a part of the search and rescue effort also. Photo / NZDF
Members of the NZ Defence Force were a part of the search and rescue effort also. Photo / NZDF

Ifrah described the small clearing the two trampers were eventually picked up from as being the size of a small car.

An Air Force medical personnel was winched down by a 150ft winch to check on the pair and briefed them on winch extraction.

"They had a group cuddle. Our medic was pretty happy to see them and they were happy to see us."

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When they were finally safely on board, the pair were given chocolate bars - which Reynolds later told RNZ was the best chocolate bar he had ever eaten in his life.

The Defence Force NH90 helicopter crew was back at Kahurangi National Park to bring out 13 search volunteers and two dogs who had remained in the area overnight, despite the two trampers being found earlier.