Man rescued after campervan engulfed by Motueka river

A dramatic rescue has unfolded near Nelson after the Motueka River breached its banks, engulfing a campervan. 

Occupants of a campervan being airlifted to safety via helicopter amid rising floodwaters in the Motueka River, Nelson. Source: Supplied

Farmer Carol McKeever was walking through her property, which lies between the Baton and Motueka Rivers, to check for storm damage. She soon spotted the vehicle in trouble.

“We could see a campervan on the other side of the river with water rushing past and reaching up to its windows as we watched, a man climbed out the skylight and was waving frantically.

"We would’ve been a couple hundred metres away because the river was so wide at that point."

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Carol McKeever had been walking along the Motueka River when she spotted the vehicle engulfed by the rising river. Source: Supplied

McKeever called for help, but weather conditions hampered their efforts to airlift the man to safety. 

“A rescue team came up from Motueka and I think they were considering a swim rescue,” she told 1 NEWS. 

After circling the area for some time, a helicopter was eventually able to get close enough to reach the man. 

The chopper lowered itself as far down towards the campervan as possible until its “skids were hovering inches above the campervan”. 

The rescue helicopter then helped steer a group of cattle stuck in a flooded paddock upstream. 

“On request, the helicopter circled around and skillfully drove the cattle towards the bank where they could struggle out.

“It was dramatic to see them swimming along with the current and then climbing safety.”