29 Apr 2010

Hundreds mourn airmen

9:47 pm on 29 April 2010

The Defence Force has farewelled the airmen, described by the Prime Minister as three of the finest, killed when their Iroquois helicopter crashed on Anzac Day north of Wellington.

They were enroute to a flypast for the dawn service in Wellington.

Hundreds of mourners packed the Number One hangar at Ohakea Air Base in Manawatu on Thursday afternoon to say goodbye to Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, 33; Flying Officer Daniel Gregory, 28; and Corporal Ben Carson, 25,

The men's caskets arrived in three separate Iroquois helicopters, which touched down at Ohakea at about 1.30pm.

They were met by a lone piper on the tarmac before being taken past a 100-strong guard of honour, and a haka for the fallen.

The service was held in the No. 1 hangar, which was packed with hundreds of mourners.

They were led by the principal Air Force chaplain Ross Falconer, and heard tributes from Prime Minister John Key, family members, colleagues of the fallen men and their Wing Commander, Russell Mardon.

Mr Key said the men were lost but would never be forgotten.

"New Zealand has lost three fine servicemen and families have lost a loved one, a partner, a husband, a son, a brother a mate. Your loss is still raw, so you need to know that New Zealand grieves with you."

Private funerals were also held for two of the men in Ohakea and Palmerston North on Thursday morning, and a third will be held at Ohakea on Friday.

A fourth man, Sergeant Stevin Creeggan, remains in Wellington Hospital recovering from serious injuries.