David Steven Askin, who went by the name Steve, died in a helicopter crash on February 14 near Christchurch, New Zealand. Askin was a former SAS soldier who had once been injured in a shootout with the Taliban. At the time of the crash, Askin was working for Way to Go Heliservices.
The 38-year old was an experienced helicopter pilot. Askin started flying helicopters in 1998 and obtained his helicopter pilot license in 2002. He had a total of 2350 hours of flight time, with 500 of those hours in the AS350-BA. Other pilots as well as Askin’s boss all said that he was a careful, deliberate pilot.
Askin crashed near Sugarloaf in the Port Hills while attempting to fight a massive fire in the Port Hills. The incident occurred on February 14 at approximately 5:04 A.M. A fire had broken out, and Askin and two other helicopter crews left Rangiora to fight the fire. The teams were told to drop water on the fire near the Sign of the Kiwi after their lunch break. The dipping point, a pond next to Summit Road, was two kilometers away from the fire.
A video from a mounted camera in the helicopter revealed that the monsoon bucket flew up towards the tail of the helicopter while it was returning to the dipping pond. The bucket had not made contact with the ground before striking the tail rotor. The vertical stabilizer detached from the aircraft, causing the helicopter to gradually descend in a right roll until it hit the ground.
Several of the pilots heard a short Mayday call at 2:05 p.m. However, they were unsure of which radio frequency the call was coming from. The air attack supervisor promptly asked for a roll call to which Askin did not respond. A quick search revealed the wreckage on a steep slope near the top of a gully near Sugarloaf. The helicopter had struck the slope and rolled down.
After almost three months, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) released an interim report with the purpose of warning other helicopter pilots and preventing the same thing from happening in the future. The TAIC report showed that Askin had made a Mayday call just before his Eurocopter AS350-BA crashed. The TAIC report notes that the cause was either an abrupt dive or the bursting of a container carrying a load. To prevent another fatal incident such as this one, the TAIC recommended using a heavy ballast sling and having another person monitor the operation from the ground.
Askin has left behind a wife and two children. His father, Paul Askin, said he was frustrated by the incident.
“You can tell me exactly what happened, you can explain the whole thing to me – does it change anything? No,” he said. “We’ve lost our son; Elizabeth has lost her husband. He doesn’t come back whatever you find out.”
The grieving father went on to say, “But in another sense, you do want to know. And we would certainly want other pilots to know if there’s something they need to know that will help prevent any more accidents.”