American helpers still waiting for Erebus medals
A former United States Navy photographer is upset that none of the US personnel in Antarctica who helped in recovery work after the 1979 Erebus disaster have been recognised by the New Zealand Government.

Richard L Horton of Clarkston, Michigan, has written to The Dominion Post complaining there had been no acknowledgement of those who found the crashed Air New Zealand DC10 or helped with the gruesome and dangerous job of recovering 257 bodies.

Last year many police officers and civilians who were involved in the disaster recovery mission were awarded New Zealand Special Service (Erebus) medals.

Citizens of other countries, specifically the US, are deemed eligible for the award, which was formally instituted in 2006.

But none have been awarded to US citizens because the Defence Force has not completed the paperwork and asked for US Government approval to issue the medals to US citizens.

Mr Horton said an attempt was made last year to contact all those who helped so they could apply for the award but there had been no response to his inquiries since June.

He said he made at least three flights to the crash site but there were others who spent much more time on Mt Erebus and witnessed much more of the carnage.

He also referred to the air crew who found the crash site, the helicopter pilots who made countless dangerous flights to the scene, those who set up a makeshift landing site and medical staff who helped with the recovery.

"Don't you think they are worth mention? Just how callous and self- centred are New Zealanders?

"I don't care if the New Zealand Government ever acknowledges my contributions but, at minimum, they should acknowledge the contributions (collectively) of all US naval and army personnel that assisted in the recovery efforts."

A Defence Force spokesman said a search for US citizens eligible for the medal was begun last year.

"Regrettably, due to a change of staff . . . and other workload commitments the formal offer of the NZSSM (Erebus) to the United States Government has not yet been completed.

"However, this matter is still being worked on by HQNZDF staff and will be completed as soon as possible," the spokesman said.

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