Wreckage found in a remote Fiordland location has been confirmed as a helicopter missing since 2004.
Police said this afternoon the helicopter is the Hughes 500 that went missing in January 2004 with pilot Campbell Montgomerie, 27, and his English girlfriend Hannah Rose Timings, 28, on board.
"The pair are yet to be formally identified and this will be done through DNA," a police statement said.
The wreckage was spotted yesterday near Humboldt Creek in Fiordland.
Seven specialist police and two alpine cliff rescue team members flew into the area this morning to examine the site.
The helicopter had been flying in difficult weather conditions from Howden Hut to Milford Sound when it lost radio contact with the Milford Radio Tower on January 3, 2004.
An extensive search and rescue operation was mounted the same day in the Hollyford Valley.
Police say that the wreckage was found at the extremities of the original search area, which comprised extraordinarily difficult and complex terrain.
Inspector Olaf Jensen said thoughts are with the families, and officers hope the discovery of the wreckage brings some closure.
Earlier today Montgomerie's mother, Liz, told Fairfax Media she didn't know much about the find, but she was about to get on a plane to Queenstown to find out more.
A coroner found in 2004 that the couple probably died in the crash, which could have been a result of an error of judgment by the pilot who was unfamiliar with the area and weather conditions.
The wreckage was spotted about 4pm yesterday.
Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters pilot Brendan Hiatt said he was on the way back to Queenstown after picking up two American couples who had been on a cruise around Milford Sound, when he spotted something below.
"I just spotted something glinting that just didn't look quite right amongst the snow, so I said 'we'll just take a look'.
"It's happened before, where you see a glinting rock or something that you go in closer for a look at. We got close and it was pretty evident what it was."
Perched amongst rocks and scrub in the isolated, bushy valley near Humboldt Creek he could see what looked like a Hughes helicopter, he said.
The wreckage was obviously in bad shape.
"It was destroyed. It's been a very, very violent impact."
The remote location where the wreckage was found was likely the reason why the helicopter, which appeared to have been in the area for several years, had never before been found.
"The lower part of the valley is pretty bushy so the access in there would be pretty difficult, that's probably why nobody's come across it before," he said.
- The Southland Times
Should residents do more to help maintain the city's parks and reserves?Related story: Christchurch citizens to mow parks?