In an incredible tale of survival, three men (all pilots) have beaten the odds and survived a horror helicopter crash off the coast of New Zealand.
The three pilots from Southern Lakes Helicopters — who are some of the country’s most experienced rescue crew members — crashed their aircraft 450km off the coast of Invercargill on the South Island just before 8pm on Monday night. (20 May)
Pilot Andrew Hefford, paramedic John Lambeth and winchman Lester Stevens swam 20 minutes in the dark, freezing water to a beach on one of the subantarctic islands, 450 km south of New Zealand.
Their helicopter had crashed on descent into Enderby Island, where they planned to spend a night before performing a medical evacuation from a fishing vessel the following morning.
They had made it to the closest shore despite the darkness and with no lights on the island to guide their way. It was a cool 10C at the time they were believed to be in the water.
Southern Lakes Helicopter owner Sir Richard Hayes said their survival came down to training and instinct.
“I believe the training, any training be it flying or emergency, does kick in, and in the case of Lester and even Andrew, who was knocked out for a short period, survival instinct and training kicks in.