War hero chopper pilot remembered as 'jovial, hard case' personality by industry colleague

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The helicopter pilot and former SAS soldier killed in a chopper crash while fighting fires on Christchurch's Port Hills yesterday has been remembered by an industry colleague as a "jovial hard case" bloke. 

Steve Askin.

Steve Askin.

Source: Facebook.

Police this morning confirmed David Steven Askin, 38, known as Steve, died in the crash yesterday afternoon near the Sugar Loaf car park.

A statement was provided to police by Mr Askin's company, Way to Go Heliservices, saying it was a deeply sad time for them.

"Steve was a much loved and vital member of our team, he has always exemplified the attitude of the quiet professional ... Steve has always served his community, either with his career in the military or as yesterday when he was fighting the Port Hills fire," the statement from company head Rob Kittow said.

"Steve loved New Zealand and the outdoors ... he was an inspiration to other staff with his professionalism and dedication to duty.

"We have been heartened by the messages of support and condolences from around the country that we have received.

"Our immediate priority is to support Steve’s family, friends and colleagues, we are co-operating fully with the authorities."

Simon Duncan, general manager of Garden City Helicopters was one of the last people to see Mr Askin alive - giving him bottles of cold water as he refuelled his chopper.

Mr Duncan said in a statement Mr Askin learned to fly with Garden City Helicopters "a few years ago".

"He was a model student with a jovial 'hard case' personality," Mr Duncan said.

He described the moment he found out about the helicopter crash.

"At around 2.30pm - I received a call from our office to say they were responding the Westpac helicopter to a 'downed helicopter' on the fire ground, and for me to check on our machines operating here.

"I mentioned to the Way To Go team next to us that a heli has gone down, and their guys said to me: 'Shit we had expected Steve back by now (to pick up fuel)' whilst I was heading over to tell the fire controllers of the news."

Mr Askin was flying for Way To Go yesterday.

Fairfax media reports Mr Askin suffered a head wound during a firefight with Taliban while serving with the SAS in Afghanistan in 2011.

Troops helped Afghan police in a battle that raged for five hours at the InterContinental hotel while a wedding was being held in Kabul. Ten people were killed in the incident.

The firefight saw two troops awarded with the Gallantry Star, New Zealand's second highest military honour and four others received honours for their role in the incident.

Police and the Civil Aviation Authority are investigating yesterday's crash. 

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