Flags lowered for soldier

OLIVIA CARVILLE AND CAROLINE KING
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2012
Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer’s former Phillipstown School teacher Sunny West
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

HAPPY FELLOW: Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer’s former Phillipstown School teacher Sunny West remembers him as always having a smile on his face. She is pictured at the school’s roll of honour on which Durrer will be honoured.

Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer
Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer

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Christchurch flags are flying at half-mast in honour of slain city soldier Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer.

The 26-year-old was one of two New Zealand soldiers killed in Bamiyan when their armoured vehicles were fired at on Saturday.

Durrer's Christchurch family had gathered to support one another through the shock of his death, a family member told The Press yesterday.

Durrer, who was based at Burnham Military Camp, joined the army in 2004 and was on his first deployment to Afghanistan.

The family member said Durrer's mother had died more than a decade ago, his father was "not around" and he had been raised by his aunt in Christchurch. His girlfriend lived in Palmerston North.

Durrer attended Phillipstown School, where principal Tony Simpson described him as a "shining star".

Staff members at the school had "fond memories" of him.

"He was a really helpful, friendly young lad and definitely had leadership potential," Simpson said.

Durrer had been a member of the kapa haka group, had a good school record and was also a "fast little rugby player".

One of his former teachers, Sunny West, said Durrer "always had a smile on his face".

"He was always involved and was never a problem."

She had recognised Durrer "straight away" from his photograph.

Simpson said the school was flying the New Zealand flag at half-mast in memory of its fallen pupil.

Durrer's name would be added to the school's roll of honour, which listed former pupils who had died in battle. The school would gather around the flag today to mark his death.

"We are hurting on behalf of his family," Simpson said.

Speaking through the Defence Force, Durrer's family said he had had a "rewarding career" with the army.

"We are all thankful for the 26 years we had with Pralli and are proud of all that he accomplished in his short time with us," the family's statement said.

"He has had a rewarding career as a soldier and we know he had a positive effect on all those he worked alongside throughout his time with New Zealand Army."

The last time Rene Ribotton saw his former high school mate, Durrer was in a picture uploaded to Facebook in Afghanistan with a "big grin" on his face.

"I just saw a picture of him about a week ago," he said.

"He was standing next to a Unimog that had gone into a river or a ditch, and he was standing there with a big grin. He looked like he was having a great time."

Ribotton was shocked to hear Durrer was one of the two New Zealanders killed in Afghanistan.

"I don't know what to say. It's pretty weird to hear that. It's horrible. I can't really believe it," he said.

Ribotton said he remembered Durrer as a "genuine good guy".

Some of Durrer's Facebook friends had yesterday changed their profile picture to a soldier standing over a cross, and one had a field full of poppies in tribute to the 26-year-old.

Linwood College also lowered the New Zealand flag to half-mast in honour of Durrer, who was a pupil there from 2000 to 2001. He then went on to Hagley Community College.

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Linwood College principal Margaret Paiti said Durrer was remembered as an "enjoyable, pleasant student" who involved himself in the school community.

"It's tragic what's occurred. He paid the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for the freedom we enjoy," she said.

"It's a very strong message that we'll be sending to our students to recognise the sacrifice that he did make. He's a hero."

Paiti said the college would hold an assembly today to acknowledge Durrer's heroism.

- The Press

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