Father of killed NZDF serviceman reflects on 10 years without son

The family accepted early on the crash was an accident.
The family accepted early on the crash was an accident. Photo credit: Getty

This year's Anzac Day marks a decade since the nation was stunned into silence by the Air Force Iroquois tragedy of 2010.

The helicopter was en route to perform a flyover at the Wellington Cenotaph for its official commemoration when it crashed into the hills above Pukerua Bay.

The disaster killed three Defence Force personnel -  Hayden Madsen, Dan Gregory and Ben Carson. Stevin Creeggan was the sole survivor, but suffered critical injuries.

"It takes your breath away, and is sort of like being punched in the gut," says Steve Gregory, father of Dan Gregory. 

"Although all these questions flashed through my mind, I don't think any made their way to my lips. Dead is dead. There is no coming back."

Steve says the day still feels like a blur, despite somehow being vivid at the same time.

"We missed the first call from Padre Janie… and you do not get calls from an Air Force padre for anything other than bad news."

But despite numerous inquiries, the Gregory family holds no blame after deciding early on the crash was an accident.

"We wouldn't want anyone else to go through that… but it was an accident. It wasn't something anyone intended or wanted to have happen. It caused pain and suffering for the families, but also for the wider Air Force family."

But he knows that mindset is not for everyone, and says each family has dealt with the unbearable grief in their own way.

Steve says he is also focusing on helping other Air Force families going through tough times or their own tragedy, through the Missing Wingman Trust. He says being asked to join the charity, which formed the same year as the crash, was natural.

"I told them I would be happy to help in any way after the experience I had with Dan. Anything I could do to assist the Air Force."

The Gregory family will be standing roadside, alongside the rest of the country on Saturday, to remember their fallen hero.