Port Hills fires: Steve Askin farewelled at Christchurch funeral

Steve Askin died when his helicopter crashed while fighting a fire in Port Hills, Christchurch....
Steve Askin died when his helicopter crashed while fighting a fire in Port Hills, Christchurch. Photo: NZ Herald

Chopper pilot Steve Askin was a hero to his family and two young children.

He was also a humble, selfless decorated war hero to his ex-SAS mates.

To Christchurch, he died a hero last Tuesday, trying to help save the city from a vicious, rampant fire.

Today, the 38-year-old was farewelled at an emotional, poignant, thought-provoking and often hilarious at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand at Wigram in Christchurch.

Tributes flowed for the dedicated family man, mischievous prankster, adventurer, Squirrel helicopter pilot, and man of the land.

While stories of his courage and selfless derring-do in fighting the Taliban were shared, mum Leslie spoke about true heroes making a difference in people's lives.

``No mother wants a dead hero,'' she said.

``It doesn't take going overseas and being an SAS warrior to be a hero. It's to do what is right.''

Husband of Elizabeth, and father of Isabelle (7) and Bowie (4), Mr Askin enlisted in the army in 1998 and left in 2013.

He was a member of the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS), the elite army special forces unit. He remained an active member of the SAS reserves.

He was wounded in a five-hour shootout on June 29, 2011 after the Taliban stormed the InterContinental Hotel in Kabul.

In 2014, he received the NZ Gallantry Star for his fighting efforts in Afghanistan.

Today, as fire crews continued to dampen down the massive fire, there was a reduced aerial operation to let pilot and air support crew attend the funeral, including ex-All Black Richie McCaw.

The homemade wooden casket was driven to the funeral by brother Pete in a purposely unwashed 4WD.

It was carried inside by six SAS soldiers and former comrades.

Pete stood on stage in short, a short-sleeved shirt and barefoot.

``He wouldn't dare have me in a pair of shoes today.''

He spoke to the wild adventures they undertook together, including a 171km walk from Mr Askin's beloved Waikuku Beach to Kaikoura, over a 61-hour period.

Pete said they talked about family and future aspirations.

``For a time, there's only going to be one set of footprints in the sand.''

Widow Lizzie paid an emotional tribute to her late husband.

``I loved Steve so much, he was everything to me. He made me a better person,'' she said.

``I really can't see what I'm going to do without him.

``I'm going to miss you so much, my darling.''

At the end of the two and a-half hour service, soldiers from 2nd/1st Battalion of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment sent him off with an emotion-charged haka.

Almost $400,000 has been donated across two Givealittle pages set up to help support Mr Askin's family.

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