Helicopter pilot who died fighting Christchurch fires ex-SAS member David Steven Askin video


Helicopter pilot David Steven Askin died after crashing in Christchurch's Port Hills while battling a blaze.

Air accident investigators in Christchurch to look into the cause of a crash that killed a helicopter pilot as he fought large fires on Christchurch's Port Hills.

David Steven Askin, known as Steve, was a war hero once injured in a Taliban shootout, and had been working for Way To Go Heliservices' when he crashed near Sugarloaf on Tuesday afternoon.

Garden City Helicopters general manager Simon Duncan was one of the last people to speak to the 38-year-old before the crash. His helicopters were stationed next to Askin at the staging area on Tuesday, and he handed Askin a couple of water bottles when he spoke to him during refuelling operations.

David Steven Askin pictured after firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2011, while with the NZ SAS.

David Steven Askin pictured after firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2011, while with the NZ SAS.

Duncan received a call from his office about 2.30pm to say the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, run by Garden City Helicopters, was being dispatched to a "downed helicopter" in the fire area.

* Pilot dead in helicopter crash during Port Hills fires
* More Kiwi SAS Kabul hotel siege details
* Port Hills fires now threatening Adventure Park
* Suspicious fires in Christchurch compound struggle

"I mentioned to the Way To Go team next to us that a heli has gone down, and their guys said to me, 's... we had expected Steve to be back by now [to pick up fuel]'.

The fatal helicopter crash on the Lyttelton side of the Port Hills.

The fatal helicopter crash on the Lyttelton side of the Port Hills.

"We never thought for a second this would happen to him."

Askin was a former member of the SAS and was understood to have been wounded in the head during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2011.

The SAS was repelling an attack by the Taliban on the InterContinental Hotel in Kabul in a five-hour battle. Wayne Mapp, the Defence Minister at the time, said the troops came to the rescue of Afghan police when they were overcome.

David Askin, also known as Steve, was flying a firefighting mission in Christchurch when his helicopter crashed.

David Askin, also known as Steve, was flying a firefighting mission in Christchurch when his helicopter crashed.

The hotel was hosting delegates attending an Afghan security conference and a large wedding party when the insurgents struck at dinner-time. Ten people, mostly workers at the hotel, were killed.
Ad Feedback

Guardian correspondent Jon Boone said the Kiwis played a "major role" in bringing the siege to a close.

Two members later received New Zealand's second highest military honour for bravery, the Gallantry Star. Four others were honoured for their actions in the same firefight.

A helicopter douses flames on the Port Hills on Monday night.

A helicopter douses flames on the Port Hills on Monday night.

Photos of the SAS troops were distributed worldwide. One photo, taken by a wire service photographer outside the hotel, shows four Kiwi soldiers walking away from the scene, one of them – now confirmed to be Askin – with his helmet removed and a cut down the right side of his face.

Then-Prime Minister John Key said at the time the SAS soldiers were initially in the area in a mentoring role, but were engaged when the situation escalated.

Duncan said Askin learned to fly with Garden City Helicopters a few years ago. He was a "model student" with a "jovial, hard case" personality.

"We really feel for his wife and family and the Way to Go team and we wish to extend our sincerest condolences to them all and ensure them of our ongoing support for the future."

According to the Way To Go Heliservices website, Askin joined the team after his time in the army.

He worked with the company as a base pilot, "streamlining commercial transport, agricultural and aircraft operations alongside student training".

"Steve has a passion for the great outdoors and works hard to ensure our clients have an experience to remember," the site said.

The company declined to comment, saying it would release a statement through police on Wednesday.


Police, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) are investigating the circumstances surrounding Tuesday's crash, which came as up to 15 helicopters were fighting the Christchurch blazes that started on Monday and spread over 600 hectares.

Superintendent Lane Todd said it was "too early to determine exact specifics of the crash".

The TAIC said three investigators were at the crash site on Wednesday and expected to be there for much of the day. They were not in any danger from the fire, which was about 2 kilometres away, a spokesman said.

Chief investigator Tim Burfoot said the commission's Christchurch-based investigator was on site soon after the crash and completed an initial survey and secured some evidence by dusk Tuesday night.

Selwyn principal rural fire officer Douglas Marshall said the crash was a tragedy.

"Those involved in fighting fire on the ground and in the air make a huge contribution to keeping our community safe, often at considerable risk."

New Zealand Helicopter Association chairman Pete Turnbull said flying in such conditions was a "very busy environment".

"There is a lot going on around you. There's obviously a sense of urgency . . . with buildings and the possibility of people's lives at stake."

He said companies were audited and certified before they could be called to fight fires, and pilots had to have knowledge of wildfire behaviour, flying in low-visibility and mountains, and flying with loads.

"These are people that know what they're doing and know how to operate their machines."

Operations were planned and controlled so aircrafts followed tracks that did not cross each others' paths and were generally safe, Turnbull said.

"The systems designed also to remove as much of the pressure from pilots as possible and make everything flow smoothly for them, allowing them to concentrate on the job and not the outside factors.

"The helicopter industry is relatively small in New Zealand and we all feel for the pilot that died in the course of his duty."

The crash is the second fatality involving Way To Go Heliservices since 2012, when North Canterbury man Michael Graeme Mehrtens crashed while spraying gorse.

A CAA investigation found the most likely cause of the crash was that Mehrtens was disoriented and inadvertently flew the helicopter along a shallow, descending flight path.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

King tide on Tamaki Drive

Tamaki Drive clings to the east Auckland coastline and could be flooded by tonight's king tide.

Motorists were warned of flooding on Auckland's Tamaki Drive during a king tide on Saturday evening.

Major power cut in west Auckland

1130 homes in west Auckland are without electricity due to a tree falling on power lines.

A tree falling on power lines left more than 1000 homes without electricity in west Auckland.

Impaled teen had punctured stomach

The fire service gave first aid to a man with critical injuries sustained trying to climb a fence in south Auckland.

The teenager injured himself while trying to scale a fence at the Manukau Institute of Technology.

$1m taken from mum's accounts

Stephen Jackson sold his mother's home while she was writing a will sharing it equally between her children, the High ...

Auckland man sold his parents' house and took hundreds of thousands from his ailing mother's bank account.


Finding a home for stories

Brucey Downs, 27, is one of the many Kiwis affected by homelessness.

"Being homeless is a roller coaster that goes up and down, it's complicated that way."

Shot theory no joke

Jim Morton lost his left eye, on the right of this photo as you look at it, in a shooting incident. A Fish and Game ...

All hunters should start wearing safety glasses, says man who claims shot can ricochet off of ducks.

A market for drugs

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne's dramatically changed his views on drug policy over the past eight years.

Government minister says legalisation of cannabis is the 'logical way forward'.

Champion of science

Dave Hansford wrote a book about the pest poison 1080 because "someone had to".

"A great deal of anti-1080 sentiment isn't about 1080," says author.


How's this for a bachelor pad?

The Carlton Butchery penthouse by MAP Architects 26.5.17

Luxurious Christchurch 'bachelor pad' in The Carlton Butchery wins major award.

Consent $63 per year

Blair Colligan plans to bottle water alongside the Waimangaroa River in Buller.

There may soon be signs of life in a dormant, West Coast town: a water bottling plant.

Alleged grope on flight

Police arrested a man at Christchurch Airport after the alleged incident. (FIle photo)

Passenger arrested after allegedly assaulting a woman on Jetstar flight.

Man killed in crash

The cause of the crash is not yet known.

A 26-year-old man is dead and another seriously injured after crashing into a house in Christchurch.


Rubber duckies on the loose

Hundreds of rubber ducks are dumped into the water.

Hamilton's lake meets a different type of bird life.

Suspicious blaze at caryard

The Fire Service received a call about the blaze at 3.10pm. Two crews from Waipa attended the scene, plus two trucks ...

At least one person has suffered burns in the Te Awamutu blaze.

Canoe racing home

Canoe Racing CEO Mark Weatherall

Canoe racing high performance athletes will transition to their new headquarters in Cambridge starting pre-Christmas.

Sevens skeptics won't quit

Public reaction to the news that the Sevens are moving to Hamilton has been largely positive. But not everybody's cheering.

Official assurances only go so far with twitchy ratepayers haunted by Hamilton's V8 debacle.


Sale from beyond the grave

The Tariki Hall committee members want to sell the hall and give the proceeds to charity because the income doesn't meet ...

To sell this rural hall, permission was needed from the original trustees - who have long been dead.

Winery trial to come

In times past Tim Finn, Bic Runga, Dave Dobbyn  performed at the Sentry Hill Winery.

The liquidation saga of Sentry Hill Winery is heading to trial.

Goons make it two

Suburban Goons were winners of the best band in the Taranaki regional final of Smokefreerockquest for the second time ...

They won last year and now the Suburban Goons have done it again.

Sacrificing your self 

A longing for relationships is hard wired into our DNA.

OPINION: To be in community we need to sacrifice some measure of individual right and freedom.


Lifetime of work destroyed

John Bramley, with his dog Moose, lost 50 years worth of woodturning work and equipment in a shed fire at his Palmerston ...

It was a shed holding half a century of his life. It was gone in minutes.

Three car pile-up

Police were called to a minor car crash at George St on Saturday.

A person is in hospital after three-car pile-up at a busy Palmerston North street.

Shot theory no joke

Jim Morton lost his left eye, on the right of this photo as you look at it, in a shooting incident. A Fish and Game ...

All hunters should start wearing safety glasses, says man who claims shot can ricochet off of ducks.

Fed up in Foxton

Flooding on Wednesday morning, at the Blue Bell motel on SH1 in Foxton.

Frustrated residents say Foxton's stormwater system can't cope, after repeated floods.


Protesting for right to protest

Lewis Staton aka Hone Ma Heke at the protest at the 1903 Square during Saturday's protest, having recently been released ...

Former prime minister calls on the city council to with withdraw a draft bylaw that would require a permit to protest.

Fatal crash near Mot

Motueka Volunteer Fire Brigade volunteers divert traffic on the Coastal Highway after a fatal car crash.

A person has died and another is seriously injured in a two-vehicle crash near Motueka.

What now for Tom?

Thomas Lay is being evicted from  Bridge Street Backpackers and is looking for a new place to live.

Thomas Lay is worried. A Nelson backpackers - his home of seven years - has been forced to sell up.

'Cowboy poachers' under spotlight

Bryce Buckland saw six of the runaway deer at Marsden Valley Cemetery last month. Three men face prosecution after ...

Three men who shot at deer from a car in a residential area could face hefty charges.


'Gentle giant' mourned after rugby death video

Bevan Moody died after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing for Waitohi last weekend.

Bevan Moody, who died after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing for Waitohi, remembered as a young family man with a quick wit.

Oldest Facebooker?

Jean Leslie, 99, uses Facebook to connect with relatives like her granddaughter Melissa Tripe.

Even with just 62 'friends', this 99-year-old still gets fed up with some of the stuff other people 'like'.

'Armed and dangerous' man sought

Michael John Hughes, 36, is considered armed and dangerous.

Police looking for a man believed to be armed and dangerous after he allegedly committed offences across the South Island.

The recycle of life

The majority of recycled glass in Marlborough stays in New Zealand.

From kerbside to dockside; the journey of Marlborough's recycling.

South Canterbury

Rural location no barrier video

Kate Ivey juggles her expanding business with caring for her three children and helping run the family farm.

Mother of three says living in the 'middle of nowhere' is no barrier to business success.

'Out of character'

Timaru police are looking for 53-year-old Murray Wall, missing since Thursday.

The disappearance of a Timaru man is "completely out of character", police say.

Guilty of manslaughter

Timaru Court.

Kooly Managki Te Tomo found guilty of the manslaughter of Arran Gairns.

Accommodation boost

Finance Minister Steven Joyce announced his first Budget on Thursday.

The Government has recognised parts of SC have become more expensive.


Your chance to cast a vote

Cyclist Eddie Dawkins.

Your chance to have your say for the 2016/2017 Southland Sports Awards.

Busman's holiday gets beached video

Jeff Leeden got his 1964 VAL Bedford bus, Chubby Cheeks, stuck in the sand on Oreti Beach.

Aussies thought they'd take their housebus for a jaunt on the sands. This was nearly its final stop.

Health professionals unhappy

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Ian Powell.

A medical union has accused the Government of "continued neglect" with its annual health budget announcement on Thursday.

Council's 'Gypsy Day' u-turn

Cows are moved, near Rakaia.

It's deemed too offensive so a new name for sharemilkers moving cows to farms is needed.

Ad Feedback