Heroes' send off for veteran pilot

Steve Askin (file)
Steve Askin (file)

Hundreds have attended the funeral service for Steve Askin, 38, who was killed fighting the fires that ravaged the Port Hills for more than four days.

The former SAS soldier was carried to the hearse by comrades during his service at Christchurch's Wigram Airforce Base on Monday afternoon.

Despite the funeral, some helicopter pilots had to remain behind at the Port Hills to fight the remaining fires.

"The biggest thing for us today is, it's Steve's funeral today, he's one of us and we're going to make sure we here a good representation there," says Rural Fire officer Richard McNamara.

"An operation like this, we just can't [stop fighting the fire] there will be a group of pilots, including myself that will go along to his funeral.

"We must pay our respect to him and his family for the work that he has done."

Pilots sang together before flying on Monday morning in tribute to the man they call "Steveo."

Mr Askin has been cited multiple times for his exceptional bravery in Afghanistan, the Defence Force has said.

He received the New Zealand Gallantry Star, New Zealand's second-highest gallantry award, in 2014, his identity not being made public at the time.

The medal citation said that, during a Taliban attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in 2011, Mr Askin was wounded by grenade and rifle fire, but carried on rescuing hotel guests as a fire broke out.

He is survived by his wife Elizabeth and two young children.

More than $330,000 has been raised for the family on their Givealittle page.