New Zealand rescue helicopter crew found safe after crash

Officials said their dry suits appeared to have helped them survive the frigid and stormy waters.

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By Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Three crewmen aboard a helicopter that crashed off the New Zealand coast while on a rescue mission were found alive on a remote island Tuesday after they were missing overnight.

Rescue Coordination Centre spokesman Mark Dittmer said the men were found shortly before noon in their survival suits walking along a beach on uninhabited Auckland Island, some 311 miles southwest of the town of Invercargill where they'd left from 16 hours earlier.

He said the crew had some injuries and were being flown by helicopter to a hospital in Invercargill. The wreckage of the helicopter was found in the water near a neighboring island.

Dittmer said that while they don't yet know all the details of what happened, it appears the helicopter crashed in the ocean near the islands and that the crew's survival suits, also known as dry suits, helped them survive the frigid and stormy waters. He said it's standard practice for crews to wear such suits while on rescue missions.

The helicopter left Monday evening to evacuate a person aboard a fishing boat who needed urgent medical attention, said rescue center duty manager Kevin Banaghan. On board were a pilot, a crew member and a paramedic.

He said the final contact with the helicopter was at 7:37 p.m. Monday, and it disappeared from radar tracking about 10 minutes later. He said there was no distress call and that the crew didn't activate their emergency beacons, which worried rescuers. He said the water was about 52 degrees at the time, and that the helicopter also contained a life raft.

Rescuers said the person on the fishing boat who prompted the evacuation attempt was also being transported to a hospital.