A woman of 74, trapped down a cliff next to her wrecked car, stopped herself from sliding further down by wrapping each leg around a tree.

Shirley Loft wedged herself between the branches in thick scrub and had only a cover from her golf bag to keep her dry and warm.

She was trapped on the sheer cliff for three days after accidentally putting her car into reverse and plunging nearly 300 metres down the steep bank on the Coromandel Peninsula.

As her neighbour Geoff Gillett and his workmate Valance McLaughlin searched for her yesterday, they were convinced they were on a body recovery mission. But after spotting her car bumper down the bank, they clambered down.

They saw Loft’s wine red Ford Taurus, which had crashed rear-first and vertically into a gully and was “completely smashed up”.

“We were expecting to find a body, so you can imagine our surprise when she heard us and yelled out for help and it was, like, ‘She’s alive!’ ... It’s just unbelievable.”

“Her first words were, ‘How the hell did you find me?’”

Auckland Westpac rescue helicopter advanced paramedic Chris Deacon said he joked with Loft as they were winched up the cliff to safety.

“I asked her if she was scared of heights and she said, ‘Well, I’ve jumped out of an aeroplane before’, so I thought, ‘Yeah, she will be good with heights’, but by all accounts I don’t think she is that great (with them). She looked a bit nervous.”

Before she was winched up, Loft told him she had played a lot of sport when she was younger, so was quite fit and healthy.

Loft was lifted from the area by helicopter and taken by ambulance to Thames Hospital for a check-up. - The New Zealand Herald