Par­ents moved by new memo­rial to dead son

Air Force un­veils trib­ute to those who died in Iro­quois crash on An­zac Day 2010

Weekend Herald - - News - Kurt Bayer

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.”

Pic­ture / Kurt Bayer

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.

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