'A great New Zealander, a tragic death'

'A great New Zealander, a tragic death'

Photo: AFP / Pedro Ugarte

The father of the Defence Force helicopter pilot killed while fighting fires in Christchurch's Port Hills remembers him as a "hero". 

Speaking to Newshub, Paul Askin said Corporal David Steven Askin, known as Steve, was a "son, a father, a husband and a hero in our family". 

Cpl Askin was a former SAS soldier who was awarded the Gallantry Star for his actions in a firefight at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in 2011.

The 38-year-old from Waimakariri died when the helicopter he was piloting crashed on Tuesday afternoon.

Steve Askin left the Army in 2013, but remained in the SAS Reserves (Way 2 Go Heliservices)
Steve Askin left the Army in 2013, but remained in the SAS Reserves (Way 2 Go Heliservices)

Chief of Army Major General Peter Kelly says Cpl Askin says he was helping the firefighting efforts the same way as he served in the Army.

"He was an outstanding soldier who served his country with bravery and commitment - the same bravery and commitment he showed in helping his community fight these fires.

"Our thoughts are with his family, friends and comrades at this time," Maj Gen Kelly says.

Way to Go Heliservices Ltd principal Rob Kittow says Askin was a "much-loved and vital member" of the helicopter team.

"Steve has always served his community, either with his career in the military or as yesterday when he was fighting the Port Hills fire," he says.

"[He] loved New Zealand and the outdoors. He was an inspiration to other staff with his professionalism and dedication to duty."

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee had a message for Cpl Askin's family: "We all share the sadness to an extent. They of course will feel it far more acutely than we do.

"This guy's one of New Zealand's heroes, there's no doubt about that. And for him to have lost his life trying to save other lives as he effectively was is a bit of a metaphor for the whole life that he's lived - a great New Zealander, a tragic death."

Lost house 'insignificant' compared to Askin's death - resident

A Port Hills resident has labelled his worries "insignificant" compared to the devastation the community is sharing over Cpl Askin's death.

Chris Bayley says he escaped the blaze at his property by the skin of his teeth and estimates it could be six months before he and his family are able to make it back into their home after appropriate infrastructure is replaced.

"All of that pales in significance to the loss Steve Askin's family has suffered," he says.

"My gratitude goes out to his family and all the people doing that job. They're out there fighting for us, protecting our property. It's absolutely courageous what they're doing.

"Words just fail to express the sorrow and gratitude we feel about a loss like that.

"[I would] rather see the whole hillside burn down than a loss of life over it."

Friends and former colleagues have been paying a subtle tribute to Cpl Askin by changing their profile pictures on Facebook.

At least 15 friends have paid tribute by changing their photo to a picture of a soldier near a single white cross that reads: "He who dares nothing need hope for nothing. But he who dares wins."


The Christchurch fires have been compared to bush fires seen in Australia.

According to his employee profile on Way to Go's website, Cpl Askin became a keen pilot and B-cat instructor after a career change from the New Zealand Army.

"Steve has broad helicopter flying experience and brings a background of discipline and professionalism to all tasks that he undertakes."

It says he has a passion for the great outdoors and his keenness for flying and enthusiasm for the aviation industry shows.

A decorated military career

Steve Askin's helicopter crashed while he was fighting the huge fire from the air
Steve Askin's helicopter crashed while he was fighting the huge fire from the air

Cpl Askin was awarded the Gallantry Star - New Zealand's second-highest gallantry award - in 2014 for his role in the Kabul incident.

While wounded, reportedly in the head, by grenade and rifle fire, Cpl Askin carried on his mission and rescued hotel guests as fire broke out.

The five-hour battle was an attempt to force the Taliban to retreat from the hotel.

Four others were also honoured for the same fight.

Cpl Askin was also cited for his bravery in a number of other occasions during his time in Afghanistan.

He enlisted in the Army in 2008 and left in 2013, although he remained an active member of the SAS Reserves.

A Givealittle page created to support his family has already raised more than $13,000.