Parents moved by new memorial to dead son
Air Force unveils tribute to those who died in Iroquois crash on Anzac Day 2010
A new memorial dedicated to the three young airmen who died in the Anzac Day 2010 Iroquois helicopter disaster indicates a “positive attitude shift” inside the Air Force, says the crash’s only survivor.
The memorial plaque was unveiled in a private New Zealand Defence Force ceremony at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand at Wigram in Christchurch on Thursday.
It remembers Corporal Ben Carson, 25, and flight lieutenants Hayden Madsen, 33, and Dan Gregory, 28, who died in the crash on a pre- dawn flight from Ohakea to the Anzac Day service in Wellington.
“Dedicated to the crew of Iroquois NZ3806 and those who will forever be affected by Anzac Day 2010,” it reads.
Sergeant Stevin Creeggan survived the crash but suffered serious leg, chest and spine injuries that, seven years on, have him in constant pain and struggling for employment.
He successfully took a prosecution against the Defence Force that led to it pleading guilty to health and safety breaches in 2014, after a court found Air Force commanders allowed a dangerous and deadly culture of rulebreaking to exist in an environment which had few warning systems.
Creeggan, who emigrated to Cairns in Queensland on December 27, 2014 — the day of his medical discharge from the Air Force — was flown over by the Defence Force on Thursday for the poignant service.
“Coming back into this environment i s difficult, especially after what’s happened and knowing you won’t be back again, but the service was very respectful to everyone, it was fantastic,” he told the Herald afterwards.
The memorial, which has come more than seven years after the crash, was the clearest sign yet that the Defence Force was finally willing to ac- knowledge the tragedy, Creeggan said. “For people to die, it is a tragedy. But not to learn from it is an even bigger tragedy.
“If we learn from it, then it means that those lives meant something.”
His views were echoed by Ben Carson’s parents, who came from Noosa for the ceremony.
Andrew and Pauline Carson have been vocal critics of the Defence Force in the past, alleging a lack of accountability and transparency, but they too were touched by the service and the memorial.
“It was very moving, and it brings it all back up again,” said Andrew.
The Defence Force issued a short statement which said: “The Royal New Zealand Air Force continues to remember the crew members of Iroquois NZ37806 and to acknowledge all those affected by Anzac Day 2010.”
Survivor Sergeant Stevin Creeggan, right, is joined by Ben Carson’s parents, Andrew and Pauline Carson, as they pay their respects at the new memorial on Thursday.
The crash site at Pukerua Bay, north of Wellington. Below: Ben Carson.