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

Police urge caution on wet roads

A driver and a house escaped unscathed after this car skidded off the road.

A driver has had a near-miss with a house on the slippery roads.

Storm: What you need to know

Sloane Tce residents are knee-deep in water.

Flooding has hit many parts of the country, with towns cut off and states of emergencies declared.

Emergency response at hospital

An burst water pipe at North Shore Hospital has now been repaired.

A water main burst and ambulances were being diverted away from North Shore Hospital.

Stop-go in place on SH1 near Puhoi

A stop-go system was in place on SH1 north of Auckland. (File photo)

SH1 affected by a slip north of Auckland, causing major delays.


'Grumpy' Canes get job done video

Hurricanes second five-eighth Ngani Laumape takes the ball into contact.

Hurricanes advance to the semis despite a third consecutive "sloppy, loose and ill-disciplined" effort.

How to stop begging? video

Marcus Pohio is homeless and regularly begs on Courtenay Place, in Wellington.

The only thing that will get Marcus Pohio off the street is death. But is public generosity speeding that up?

Wellington loses Si and Gary show

Wellingtonians won't hear Si & Gary on their breakfast show anymore.

But they'll get something more local in return - Polly and Grant.

Strong winds for Wellington

Police officers help a driver caught in floodwaters near Timaru on Friday. Wellington has largely missed the weather hit ...

Wellington has missed the worst weather, but there's still been slips and heavy rain.


State of emergency in Chch

Christchurch's Heathcote River was in flood on Saturday morning.

Flooded residents near Heathcote River in Chch evacuated in boats as current is too strong to evacuate on foot.

Live: Southern deluge 

The streets turned into rivers in Christchurch on Saturday as the heavy rain continued for a second day.

State of emergencies declared in several areas as flood waters force scores of evacuations.

Heathcote residents trapped

Waimea Terrace resident Tarapreet Singh, 25.

The kitchen sink is brimming with water and the nearly overflowing toilet is unflushable.

Slip hits house in Oamaru

Julie Everson's property suffered damage from a cliff collapsing.

Julie Everson was sitting in her living room as fierce rain belted her home when she heard an "almighty crash".


Historic cottage illegally destroyed

This Huntly coal-mining cottage in Tregoweth Street was torn down illegally by its owner, Kevin David Lynch, in January 2016.

The owner was fined $10,000 after he bulldozed the late Victorian coal miner's cottage.

Crash closes SH1

Police are at the scene of a crash on SH1 north of Turangi which has blocked the road.

Contractors working to clear State Highway 1 north of Turangi after a truck rolls.

Body in bale ruling

The body was found at OJI Fibre Solutions and FullCircle Recycling on June 28 in Frankton's Pukeko Street.

If it hadn't been raining, Daniel Bindner might not have crawled into a cardboard recycling cage.

Quad bike safety an attitude thing

Trauma data reveals a huge peak in quad bike injuries among the 55-to-65 age group.

Wintec students look to solve the problem of quad bike accidents.


From reporter to magical nanny

Not quite as graceful as Mary Poppins, but reporter Tara Shaskey gets a first-hand lesson on the production's flying stunts.

Mary Poppins is just a little bit magical. And that doesn't come easy or cheap.

Building gets new roof

The New Plymouth District Council decided in January to use shingles instead of corrugated iron on the Gables under ...

The Gables Gallery's shiny new roof looks the part, thanks to 20,000 new shingles

Skills for a healthy future

Carol Wham PhD NZRD
Associate Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics, Massey

Does your intermediate child know how to cook a basic, healthy meal? And why does it matter.

Labour calls in foreign aid

Michael Greenhough and David Burch are staying with New Plymouth Labour candidate Corie Haddock and said they are ...

Two overseas students have been brought in by Labour to help whip the party's campaign into shape.


Moon landing celebrated 

Buzz Aldrin stands on the Moon.

MEMORY LANE: Do you remember the first Moon landing?

No random drug tests 

Only following a police shooting do officers undergo drug and alcohol testing. (File photo).

Police are only given drug and alcohol testing if they fire a gun during an incident.

Gang-life redemption

Te Kai Po Ahuriri, captain of the Stormtroopers Outlaw chapter, spars at The Fight Shop gym.

Two gang members with separate lives talk about their similar roads to recovery.

Bridal gowns from the ages

Aimee Perrett models Miranda Polson's 1976 wedding dress.

Some of the region's finest bridal gowns of the last century were in a unique display.


Buzz about beekeeping

05062015 News Photo: Marion van Dijk / Fairfax NZ.

Urban beekeeper Nigel Costley with one of his beehives in the ...

Nelsonians keen to learn more about keeping bees can do so in a short course through the Nelson Environment Centre.

Event steam punked

Paul Kelly, left, and Ross Wearing at the Big Night Out  steampunk fantasy fundraiser for the Nelson Tasman Hospice on ...

Sci-fi met Victorian class at the Nelson/Tasman Hospice Big Night Out event.

Trespass case win

Lawyer John Fitchett has won a trespass case against Nelson College.

Lawyer wins case against Nelson College board meetings, but judge unimpressed.

Nelson in the eye of the storm

While the rest of the South Island was battered by the weather, Nelson and Tasman escaped the worst of it.

The Nelson Tasman region is sheltered from weather "similar to a cyclone".


All hands on deck

John's Kitchen supervisor Richard McDonald likes the idea that food can be an expression of care.

Blenheim charity kitchen takes on new staff to cope with high workload.

Team turned around

The MBC Falcons rugby team had a frustrating day on Friday.

MBC First XV rugby team spent around 14 hours in a bus yesterday, then never even got to pull their boots on.

The next big quake

The Adelphi Hotel, in Kaikoura, was pulled down due to earthquake damage.

It's impossible to say when an earthquake is going to strike. But the predictable patterns of aftershocks can help.

Exploring Africa

The Hansby family at Victoria Falls, from left, Luke Hansby, Fleur Hansby, Nick Hansby and Sam Hansby.

When you plan your trip to Africa, the animals and environment are expected to be the main attraction.

South Canterbury

Slip hits house in Oamaru

Julie Everson's property suffered damage from a cliff collapsing.

Julie Everson was in her living room as rain belted her home when she heard 'almighty crash'.

Mackenzie blanketed 

Heavy snow is falling in Tekapo.

Snow is still falling in the Mackenzie after a dumping overnight.

Farmers combat deluge

Federated Farmers branch chairman Mark Adams said farmers always prepared for bad weather and made sure they had extra ...

Reports of farmers stranded after storm damages culverts, creeks and fences.

State of emergency lifted gallery video

Gus, left, and Tom Cameron check out the damage to Stanton Rd, at Kimbell near Fairlie, after it was washed out overnight.

A state of emergency has been lifted in the Timaru District.


Stewart Island heritage gets $1m

An artist's impression of the Rakiura Heritage Centre. The centre has received, over $1 million in Government funding to ...

The Government is to commit $1.08m to the Rakiura Heritage Centre Trust.

Post-funeral brawl

Police and ambulance were alerted to the incident, but were not eventually required.

A post-funeral gathering in Bluff on Thursday night ended with blood, broken glass and a visit from the police.

Irrigation scheme 'a win-win'

Dairy Creek Ltd director Tim O'Sullivan, Pioneer Energy chief executive Fraser Jonker and Pioneer Energy project manager ...

A $10m irrigation scheme near Alexandra, Central Otago, is going to deliver water to about 1800 hectares of barren land.

Gecko stolen from visitor centre

The Marlborough green gecko that was stolen from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau.

An at risk gecko has been stolen from the DoC visitor centre in Fiordland.

Ad Feedback