Two children and a woman were left with critical head injuries after their car crashed off a road, flipped and landed in a river 30 metres below.
The car was found at the bottom of Waioeka gorge, near Opotiki, Bay of Plenty.
Inside were a 26-year-old woman from Gisborne, and two children, aged eight and four.
Two rescue helicopters had tried to land at the accident scene, but bad weather prevented them. They had to wait at a nearby airfield while emergency services rescued the trio. They then flew them to Tauranga hospital.
Pilot Art Kowalski said he understood the car fell about 30 metres from the road into the river.
"The vehicle landed right way up thankfully. If it hadn't, they would have been in trouble.".