Shock at compo offer for dead son

The Nelson father of one of the three airmen killed in the Anzac Day 2010 helicopter crash is astounded by the "bizarre" offer of a $70,000 settlement, but says he still wants the matter investigated by an outside party.

Corporal Ben Carson, 25, died alongside Flying Officer Dan Gregory, 28, and Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, 33, when their 3 Squadron Iroquois helicopter crashed in thick cloud at Pukerua Bay, north of Wellington, about 6am on April 25, 2010. Sergeant Stevin Creeggan was seriously injured.

Corporal Carson's father, Andrew Carson, said this morning that he had received a letter from Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Rhys Jones on Monday, offering the sum as full and final compensation for pain and suffering. The offer was not an attempt to put a financial value on Corporal Carson's life.

Mr Carson said he did not understand why such an offer was now being made.

"I don't know if the other two families had asked them for money, we certainly never mentioned money with them whatsoever.

"After the way we have been treated, I found it quite astounding."

The Carsons have complained of ill-treatment by the Defence Force since the crash, after they had been excluded from Defence Force meetings and emails.

Mr Carson said they had been excluded from a briefing for families as recently as last week.

"The other families say they have been treated very well by the air force. The air force are still treating us as badly as they were."

He understood if the settlement was agreed to, no civil suit could be taken against the air force.

He would be seeking legal advice.

The letter also said the settlement would be raised in any criminal prosecution of the Defence Force.

Mr Carson said Mr Creeggan would next week be seeking permission to criminally prosecute the Defence Force.

"To me, I seriously wonder about the motive. You're talking a week before Stevin's case, they obviously want people to sign it and say, ‘right, no matter what happens you can't take them to court over it'.

"For us, we just want it to be investigated."

In April the lead pilot on the day of the crash, Flight Lieutenant Daniel John Pezaro, was acquitted of negligently failing to abort the transit flight when the weather deteriorated and fell below authorised flying levels. Mr Carson then said the process was "laughable and criminal".

A January review by Wellington barrister Matthew McClelland recommended 26 changes to Defence Force protocol in the wake of the tragedy.

They included appointing staff to be dedicated points of contact for family after personnel are killed in action and making sure the wills of all Defence Force staff are up to date.

The Nelson Mail