The medic who first made contact with the missing Kahurangi National Park trampers has described their elation as he reached the lucky pair.

Corporal Jason Denharder said he was lowered down by an Air Force helicopter to the campsite where Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds were sheltering yesterday, ending their 19 days in the wilderness.

Denharder told reporters today that he was relieved when he saw them stand up and walk towards him under their own strength.

"Initially getting through the canopy and getting to the ground and seeing them actually mobile, it was quite a good moment, quite a happy moment, a reassuring moment.

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"You always think the worst but plan for the best," Denharder said.

"I got down to the ground and once the helicopter moved away I said 'I've been looking for you guys.' They were quite overjoyed. Yeah, that's when they came in and gave me a cuddle, I guess."

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After the initial joy, the trampers "realised the gravity of the situation", he said.

"That's when the emotions started coming out for Jessica."

The trampers' first words to Denharder were: "I'm so glad to see you."

The pair went on to tell him and the other rescuers their tale of survival, but Denharder said that wasn't his story to re-tell.

They were "lucky to be where they were", as a tree had fallen over and cleared enough space in the canopy for rescuers to see them, he said.

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The terrain where trampers Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds were found in the Kahurangi National Park after being missing for 19 days. Photo / NZDF
The terrain where trampers Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds were found in the Kahurangi National Park after being missing for 19 days. Photo / NZDF

Denharder described the moment as his "career pinnacle so far", saying it was his seventh search and rescue job. He has been in the Air Force for five years, and with the army five years before that.

When caring for people who had not eaten for a long time, it was good to give them "quite bland meals".

"Feed them too much they'll vomit it back up."

Corporal Jason Denharder, a medic with the NZ Air Force, standing in front of the helicopter used to rescue missing trampers Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds. Photo / Melissa Nightingale
Corporal Jason Denharder, a medic with the NZ Air Force, standing in front of the helicopter used to rescue missing trampers Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds. Photo / Melissa Nightingale

But the chocolate bars fed to the trampers was "a bit of a delight after 18 days".

O'Connor had a Snickers and Reynolds had a Moro and a Snickers bar, Denharder said.

"I think he was a bit hungry."

The first sign Denharder had that the trampers were okay was when they got up and walked towards him.

The second was "their face of excitement" when he was lowered down through the canopy.

Their smiles were "ear to ear" on the ride back to civilisation, "especially eating the chocolate bars".

Corporal Tom Hanson, who operated the hoist to bring the trampers up to the helicopter, said winching them up was "fairly challenging" due to the steep terrain and narrow space around them.

"We had trees, a thick canopy, and about a 3 metre clearing to extract them from.

"Relying on training in those moments where the pressure really comes on, we got the good outcome."

It took just a few seconds for each person to be winched up, he said.

"They were just stoked to be saved, and for Jessica especially very emotional. They were just very, very pleased."

Pilot flight lieutenant Loic "Frenchie" Ifrah said this morning had been spent extracting searchers from the bush.

Going in again today had reiterated just how lucky the trampers were to have been spotted, as without the sun in the right spot the holes in the tree canopies simply looked like dark spots.

The helicopter would have had to be within 50 and 100 metres of their location to see the smoke from their fire, he said.

"You don't give up hope in these types of jobs, and that's why we've committed a bunch of time and resources to it."