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11 die in Wairarapa hot air balloon crash

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Hot air balloon crash near Carterton kills 11:

Grieving family and friends of the Carterton balloon crash victims have left flowers at the edge of the police cordon at the scene of the accident.


Eleven people died this morning in a fiery hot air balloon crash north of the Wairarapa town, in what police have described as a national tragedy.


On one side of a police cordon investigators sifted the ashes in a bid to learn what went wrong, on the other tearful people arrived at Somerset Road carrying flowers.


With tears pouring from eyes covered by dark sunglasses, a man and two women placed flowers near the road sign, followed soon after by a woman on her own.


Police said the balloon was preparing to land in a paddock after a 45-minute flight when it hit wires on a power line, causing sparking in the basket carrying the pilot and passengers.


"At this point, two of the 11 people on board, believed to be a male and a female, appear to have jumped from the basket,'' Wairarapa police area commander Brent Register said.


The balloon then made a sharp ascent, a fire ignited and the balloon plummeted into a paddock on Somerset Road, near State Highway 2.


Hopping and five couples from the Wellington region have been confirmed dead by police, who have not yet released any names.


"This is a huge national, significant event. It's a tragedy as bad as tragedies get. Yes, it will affect our community here in the Wairarapa,'' Register said.


He promised a thorough investigation.


"We are continuing to work with our partner agencies, which include the Coroner's office, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Transport Accident and Investigation Commission, Dept of Labour, NZ Fire Service and Victim Support."


"We are still in the process of identifying each of the 11 people and notifying their next of kin and this process will take some time, given it requires the skills of expert Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) staff."


Register said a police family liaison team had spent the day working with some of the families of those killed, providing them with support.


"Our thoughts are with them all as they come to terms with what has occurred this morning."


One couple who died in the accident received the ride as a Christmas gift from their children.


A witness who lives on Somerset Road said she saw the balloon catch fire and ran to help.


"The two women, sisters, were on the ground in the car following the balloon with their parents in it.



When this came on the news, it caused me to think about my friend's grandparents as they live in the area where the hot air balloon crashed.

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Crash pilot planned to marry:

Friends and family of the pilot who died in yesterday's balloon crash will this week start to receive invitations to his dream wedding.


Balloon pilot Lance Robert Hopping, 50, and the 10 passengers he took up yesterday for a dawn balloon trip over the Wairarapa all died when the Early Morning Balloons flight hit powerlines and burst into flames.


Hopping was to marry long-time partner Nina Jane Kelynack at Easter weekend.


"The invitations are in the mail now, they were posted yesterday. We were all looking forward to a big reunion," said Hopping's cousin, Robert Clyde.


Friends have nothing but praise for the safety conscious pilot, and sympathy for Nina.


Hopping's father Robert - better known as Buster - said everyone in the family was in shock. "We are coping, but we are a bit of a zombie house at the moment."


Today Clyde, his wife Rose and their son Daniel will head to Carterton to be with family. Other family members are on their way from Australia.


Clyde said his cousin had been excited about his upcoming marriage to Nina.


"Lance rung me a few weeks ago to say to expect an invitation, and that he hoped we could make it for the wedding."


Hopping has two children - Henare and Hayley - from a previous marriage, and two grandchildren.


Photographer Geoff Walker, who was following Hopping on the ground when disaster struck, said his friend was a "brilliant guy."


"He started out as a freezing worker and got himself to be a helicopter pilot - that's pretty amazing. He just loved ballooning and taking people up to share the experience."



In an interview with Fairfax Media earlier this year, Hopping, a truancy officer, said: "There is a unique appeal about ballooning. It's something that people think they can imagine, but never really get to grips with until they've been and done it."


Clyde said he had attended Hopping's 50th birthday last year at The Shed, a motorcycle club where Hopping was a long-time and "highly regarded" member.


The Shed is next to Carterton's Paua Factory, from where the balloon left yesterday.


"That's when my stomach dropped [when I heard news of the crash] because that's where he flew from most of the time.


"I knew straight away, I just had that feeling," Clyde said.


"I got hold of Lance's cellphone and of course there was no answer.


"I rung The Shed and his voicemail was on its answerphone. I had my little cry."


As a teenager Clyde lived with Hopping and his adoptive parents, Val and Buster.


Clyde said he was left with fond memories of flying with his cousin, who was a popular person and "had a whole lot going for him."


"Lance was a genuine guy, he loved his ballooning and he was a helicopter pilot as well.


"I went up with him just a few years ago and, shivers, he was very strict, very safety conscious. He checked everything - gave us all the safety rules.


"His first passion was actually chopper flying. He used to land at the school in King St and we'd just climb aboard. We went over the Tararuas, it was awesome."


Former Carterton mayor Gary McPhee, also a member of the motorbike club, described Hopping as a "great guy."


"He was a bloody good guy. He was community-minded and involved in trying to promote things in the area."


In 1998 Hopping crash-landed his balloon when flying with businessman Sir Robert Jones and seven other passengers.


"My God, we hit the earth at speed," Jones said at the time.


"We smashed down and bounced and bounced again and rolled over, it was pretty bloody frightening."




Aerial footage of the balloon crash site.


The balloon pilot would have been getting married at Easter. This week his family and friends will receive invitations to a wedding which will not be happening.

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Crash pilot planned to marry:

Friends and family of the pilot who died in yesterday's balloon crash will this week start to receive invitations to his dream wedding.


Ouch. Talk about salt in the wound.


Such a freakish story. So sad-my thoughts go out to all those whose loved ones died. May those who lost their lives rest in peace.


I've never been hot-air ballooning because I'm afraid of this very thing happening.

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I'm sorry to hear this sad news, a bit late in noticing it, but in earnest, my condolences.

Power lines are always something to be wary of when flying, sadly somehow the craft veered into them. Did the investigation discover anything regarding the cause of the accident? I would imagine it was some unexpected winds that blew them into the lines..

I was thinking recently about the need for triple safeties & redundancy with things, maybe fire retardant baskets and balloon materials would have helped, an emergency sensor system to warn a pilot when nearing lines, perhaps even a parachute release if the balloon itself catches on fire?

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How is your friend and his grandparents feeling? I would imagine this shook up everyone in the area, from the sounds of it.

My friend will feel relieved that her grandparents weren't in the balloon and I'm sure they will also feel relieved.


It was mentioned by someone from another forum I'm on that a friend of hers was in Carterton at the time of the crash and the friend had seen the balloon come down.

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Sunday's hot air balloon crash is said to be New Zealand's worst aviatian disaster since Erebus.


Also in New Zealand, there have been a couple of occasions when a helicopter and a light plane collided in mid air. Both collisions resulted in the deaths of the pilots.


One collision happened in Auckland and the other one happened in my hometown Paraparaumu.

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Eleven people, a pilot and five couples, were all killed in a tragic balloon crash in New Zealand Saturday. The balloon caught fire and fell to the earth. Source of article: New Zealand balloon disaster kills eleven


This is indeed a tragic story especially if the crash pilot planned to marry his partner. :cry: This incident is now considered as the worst aviation accident in New Zealand in more than 30 years.

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