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Helicopter missing near Auckland Islands

Helicopter with three people on board missing near Auckland Islands

[UPDATE - The crew of a helicopter which went missing near the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands have been found alive after more than 16 hours. MNZ Statement: Missing Helicopter Crew Found Safe And Well]

A search and rescue operation is underway for a helicopter near the Auckland Islands, south of Stewart Island.

The ocean view from the sub-antarctic Auckland Islands Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

A Maritime New Zealand spokesperson confirmed three people are on board the plane and that an operation was under way.

They confirmed the helicopter had been travelling to the sub-Antarctic island group for a medical evacuation.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand's Mark Dittner told Morning Report the last contact with the helicopter was at 7.37pm near Yule Island.

"The owners of the helicopter, Southern Lakes Helicopters, they realised that they hadn't had contact with the helicopter for a while and they informed the rescue centre at 8.15pm last night."

"We're currently trying to locate the helicopter, so we've got a P3 Orion from the Royal New Zealand Air Force using the specialised equip it has on board. We've also got five fishing boats on the scene.

Mr Dittner said the helicopter - a long-range commercial aircraft, though the specific model was unknown - had been intended to airlift someone from a boat at the islands to Invercargill.

"We're searching around Yule Island which is a small Island at the top of the Auckland Islands group for any sign of the helicopter.

"That's the last known location for the helicopter using the tracking equipment that the helicopters have on board ... a little ping that they send out telling people of their location and that's the last one that was on the system."

It would be cold down there, but Mr Dittner said the crew would have emergency equipment.

"Absolutely, so these people will be trained for emergency situations, they'll be wearing ... cold water immersion suits. There's a life raft on board the helicopter and they also have a satellite phone, as well as personal locator beacons."

He said no such distress beacon had been set off however: there had been no signals from the aircraft since last contact.

"Currently there's low clouds in the area, which is why we're so pleased to have the P3 Orion which is able to use its specialised search equipment to break through that cloud to locate anyone that's around there.

"Definitely a large number of people searching for the helicopter at this point."

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