David 'Steve' Askin's wonderful adventurous life recalled in stories
The tramp with a broken leg in plaster. Taking his wife-to-be Elizabeth on their first romantic date – paua diving.
The beautifully-iced cake he and his SAS mates stole from the mess by dropping down from a skylight. The wild pig he and his brother Pete killed with a knife on a stormy night near Ruatoria when they were boys. Military jail, running the guards ragged.
The big bag of paua he harvested from beside the highway when he put down while flying during the Kaikoura earthquake. Turning up at his sister's wedding in ripped jeans, oversized shirt and jandals. Flying to recover venison without permission.
Those were just some of the stories told at a moving farewell for David Steven Askin, who died on February 14 when his Squirrel helicopter crashed near Sugarloaf as he helped fight Christchurch's Port Hills fires.
* Steve Askin: from elite soldier to citizen
* Life and death in the hills
* Pilot dead in helicopter crash during Port Hills fires
* Helicopter pilot who died fighting Christchurch fires ex-SAS member David Steven Askin
About 500 people, including All Black legend Richie McCaw, Victoria Cross winner Willie Apiata and Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, attended Askin's funeral at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand on Monday print: yesterday. Askin was a decorated Special Air Service trooper completing three tours in Afghanistan starting in 2004.
The ceremony started at 2pm with a karanga by Mere Balsom while Askin's SAS mates brought in his casket and placed it on a white clothed table in front of a podium flanked by an Iroquois helicopter and a Mustang fighter.
Combined with more conventionally glowing tributes, the stories fleshed out a man who was an exceptional special forces soldier, a careful but adventurous helicopter pilot and a warm, loving father, brother, husband and father. But he was also a mischief maker and a daredevil who loved nothing more than to be in the thick of the action.
In contrast to the spit and polish of the New Zealand army soldiers and officers at the funeral, Askin's brother Pete arrived in black shorts and bare feet.
He and helpers had built the high-sided, rectangle, rimu coffin in which his brother lay. It wouldn't have won woodwork prizes, was clearly a devil to handle, but it did the job.
Pete said he wore the shorts in honour of one their last adventures together when they walked along the coast to Kaikoura without provisions covering 170 kilometres in 61 hours.
"He was a helluva chap. He was a good man to have on your side and liked to push himself as far and as hard as he could. He wasn't happy unless he did something at least in the top five near-death experiences.
"And bro for you it cuts me up, it's the end of your mission . . . I feel most for my bro here. He can no longer watch his kids grow up. He doesn't get to spend time with me, his mates and his family."
Deputy Chief of the NZ Army, Brigadier Chris Parsons, said he met Askin in 2004 and took an instant shine to him. They had both grown up among Maori in the back-country. Like many SAS soldiers, Askin was a free spirit and an "artist in mischief".
Parsons said one of his first duties was to save Askin's SAS career after the cake mission "behind culinary lines".
"Soon after we were in Afghanistan and Steve with his superb eye for country, his motocross and four-wheel-drive skills, resilience, his mateship and his practical aptitude, well he was a natural."
"He was equally at home in the barren vastness of the Taliban's mountain fortress as he was in the glare of battle but of the two it was the thick of action where Steve was most alive.
"Thank the good lord we have men like Steve who race to the call of action."
Colonel Rob Gillett said the plan life had for Askin involved serving his fellow man "whether that involved fighting fires or soldiering in the regiment".
"He committed himself fully to the fray. No half measures, no doubt, no fear.
Colonel Rob Gillett described Askin as the "quintessential Kiwi mate, a good soldier and exceptional special forces operator".
"Steve was a man more afraid of the parade ground, a fitting suit or shirt creases than any enemy unlucky enough to cross him. Steve struggled with rules and imposed discipline."
His life was too short but he had "lived and loved for all the years" in his wonderful, adventurous life.
The funeral began with Askin's father Paul, a pastor and school teacher, tracing his son's life from ranging the country around Ruatoria to his life in the army and marriage to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth said her husband had made her a better person and was generous with his time.
"He always wanted to help everybody. He was everything to me. He was always encouraging me all the time. He was my rock. He was my future . . . The kids were so excited when he came home and they saw the joy in his eyes."
Steve's mother Leslie opening by saying: "No mother wants a dead hero."
She and her husband brought up their children to be heroic in the sense of giving to the community and looking after their families by making the right choices.
"Be a hero to your family, your mates. Wherever you find yourself, choose to be a hero," she said.