A new image shows the tiny clearing where two missing trampers were spotted among a blanket of thick bush after signalling a rescue chopper with fire.

After 19 days alone in the rugged Kahurangi National Park, Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds were spotted by aerial searchers - a tiny spec of colour barely visible beneath a dark canopy of trees.

They stood there waving up at the helicopter that swooped down to check out the rising smoke from the fire they'd built.

Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds when they were spotted yesterday, when a Defence helicopter saw smoke from a fire they'd made and swooped down to winch them aboard. Photo / Supplied
Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds when they were spotted yesterday, when a Defence helicopter saw smoke from a fire they'd made and swooped down to winch them aboard. Photo / Supplied

The pair, both 23, entered into the bush on May 8 and were declared missing 10 days later, triggering an intensive search and rescue operation.

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After almost two weeks without food they were rescued yesterday, when a Defence helicopter spotted smoke from a fired they'd made and swooped down to winch them aboard.

Royal New Zealand Air Force flight lieutenant Loic Ifrah said coordinates from a civil helicopter who first spotted the stricken pair led him straight to the spot where the trampers waited below.

The chopper crew who managed to spot the pair in a small three metre clearing. Photo / Supplied
The chopper crew who managed to spot the pair in a small three metre clearing. Photo / Supplied

The pilot said it was a "incredible piece of searching" that had unearthed their location in a small clearing behind a dead tree.

"I knew exactly where to look and looking down into that hole, I still couldn't see them."

The clearing was roughly 3 by 3 metres, not much bigger than a car, with overhanging branches which they had to winch people around, he said.

They carefully lowered a medic down to see them using a winch. The duo were taken to Hospital and released last night.

The small clearing as it first appeared to helicopter crews. Photo / Supplied
The small clearing as it first appeared to helicopter crews. Photo / Supplied

Police have praised the extensive efforts of the more than 50-strong search party that brought the two home.

Nelson Bays Area Commander Inspector Paul Borrell said it was "an outstanding effort from a huge range of people and resources, and I can't thank everybody enough."

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The crew of over 50 people involved in the search were made up of police staff, NZDF, Fire and Emergency NZ, Department of Conservation's Aoraki/Mount Cook Search and Rescue team, the volunteers of LandSAR NZ, as well as other volunteers.

"The assistance of our colleagues at NZ Defence Force was invaluable, with their NH90 helicopter proving an essential tool in the search, complementing work done by other helicopters and ground crews."

The 13 searchers and three dogs who remained in the area overnight were winched out today by the NH90 crew.

Police continue to praise the extensive efforts of the more than 50-strong search party that brought the two home.
Police continue to praise the extensive efforts of the more than 50-strong search party that brought the two home.

Search and Rescue Sergeant Malcolm York said it was " tough, treacherous work, and often it can be to no avail".

It was a fantastic example of bringing in a wide range of expertise and working together, he said.

"I'm really proud of the whole team and those who were in the bush are taking a well-deserved rest day today," he says.

"We are so pleased to have been able to facilitate a successful outcome and bring Jess and Dion home."

Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds, both 23, entered the bush on May 9 and were not seen for another 19 days. Photos / Supplied
Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds, both 23, entered the bush on May 9 and were not seen for another 19 days. Photos / Supplied

The trampers' preparedness for the conditions and sensible decision-making "no doubt
helped them survive such a long time in rough terrain," he said.

But York stressed the importance of a piece of equipment invaluable for trampers.

"A Personal Locator Beacon, or EPIRB, is an essential piece of equipment for anyone travelling out into the bush or mountains," he said.

"If you get into trouble, activating your PLB sends a GPS signal directly
to the Rescue Co-ordination Centre, to enable rescue services to scramble
quickly to your exact location.

"Know your limitations and plan your trip around them, check the weather,
leave intentions and an out-date with a trusted person, equip yourself for
the trip and the environment you're heading into."


READ MORE:
Trampers Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor found alive in Kahurangi National Park; were out of food but search helicopter spotted smoke from fire
Survival triumph: The 'incredible piece of searching' that unearthed missing trampers' location after 19-day ordeal
Lost trampers rescued: Dion Reynolds, Jessica O'Connor endured two weeks without food
Trampers missing in Kahurangi National Park: Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor found alive after 18 days in bush