Veteran Kiwi journalist Tom Aspell dies

Tom Aspell reports from Gaza for MSNBC.com. Photo / YouTube/Supplied
Tom Aspell reports from Gaza for MSNBC.com. Photo / YouTube/Supplied

New Zealander Tom Aspell - a veteran foreign correspondent for NBC News in the US - has died following a two year battle with lung cancer. He was 62.

Aspell, who passed away on Monday, began is journalism career as a scriptwriter and cameraman with Visnews in 1970, working first in London and then Hong Kong.

He then moved to Southeast Asia, where he worked as a cameraman until 1975.

According to his biography on the NBC website, when Saigon fell to communist forces on April 30, 1975, Aspell was one of the few foreign journalists who stayed behind.

From 1975 to 1978, Aspell covered conflicts in the Middle East as a freelance cameraman, before joining CBS in 1978 as a cameraman covering Beirut. He then worked as a producer for ABC in Beirut from 1981 until 1983.

He joined NBC News in 1985 as a producer based in Cyprus, covering tensions in the Middle East for the US network. Following the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Aspell went to Baghdad as an on air correspondent.

As a foreign correspondent Aspell covered events from the Bosnian War to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

"From Southeast Asia to the Middle East ... to the Balkans ... to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and dozens of other 'hot spots,' Aspell made his mark on behalf of NBC News for 28 years," NBC News President Steve Capus said in a statement.

"To a person, all of his colleagues will tell you Tom was great company in the field who loved sharing stories at the end of a day spent documenting history."

Awards won by Aspell for his work include the National Press Photographers' Association Award in 1979 for coverage of the Iranian Revolution, an Emmy for coverage of the Romanian Revolution in 1989, and the National Headliner Award for coverage of Yugoslavia in 1993.

NBC anchor Brian Williams described Aspell as displaying "an intense brand of cool under fire", NBC reported.

NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engle paid tribute to his colleague on Twitter.

"We miss you Tom. Knowledgeable, brave, fun, kind. Tom Aspell did important work and left us far too soon," he wrote.

The New Zealander's final posting for NBC News was in Cyprus, where he enjoyed spending time on his sailboat, NBC reported.

He leaves behind his wife Nujud Dabbagh and their two sons, Peter and Gary.

- nzherald.co.nz

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