A bomb disposal expert was killed by an artillery shell explosion just weeks after he returned from active service in Afghanistan.
Flight Sergeant Andrew Bruce Forster, 46, was marking munitions for disposal at the Waiouru army base when a 105mm shell exploded, killing him instantly.
Flight Sergeant Forster, a serviceman of 27 years and father of three, was placing a wooden stake in the ground to mark the shell's location in a training area. Another Defence Force member suffered minor injuries in the incident and was taken to the Waiouru Military Hospital to be treated for shock.
Both were members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron.
Flight Sergeant Forster had returned from Afghanistan, after working in explosive ordnance disposal with the provincial reconstruction team in Bamiyan province. Mr Forster, from Palmerston North, had served in the Defence Force since 1982 and was a member of the tri-service squadron. He was married with three children. The family were too distraught to speak to the Herald yesterday.
Chief of Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Graham Lintott said Flight Sergeant Forster was a well-liked and respected flight sergeant, and his death had come "as a tremendous shock".
"Our focus now turns to Flight Sergeant Forster's family, his squadron colleagues, and many friends throughout the Defence Force and elsewhere. Our people have been with the family since [Thursday] morning and we will continue to support them in any way we can."
Prime Minister John Key expressed his sympathy for the two men.
"The brave men and women of the New Zealand military are constantly threatening their lives as they go about their duties and it's a tragic case when a New Zealander is lost in the service of his country and that's the situation today."
Defence force units continued training as usual yesterday, but those affected by the incident had been granted temporary leave.
Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki said the death had rattled personnel at the training camp, the largest in the country. "There is a bit of shock and sadness at the loss of one of our own."
Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said: "There will be a full inquiry but he was essentially marking munitions for later disposal, which is an inherently dangerous task.
"It was an unexploded artillery round ... my understanding is that he was killed instantly."
Police and the Defence Force are involved in the inquiry.
It is the first serious accident during training at the Waiouru base since a live artillery round exploded inside a gun barrel in March 1997, killing two visiting Singaporean servicemen.
Twelve other servicemen were also injured in the explosion, including a staff sergeant from the New Zealand Defence Force.
An inquiry found that a defective fuse had caused a premature explosion.