Five couples from greater Wellington region and pilot died in balloon crash. Balloon crash witness David McKinlay from Carterton saw the crash. A nurse who was one of the first on the scene of today's fatal hot air balloon crash in Wairapara risked her life trying to save the lives of two people who had tried to jump clear.
Eleven people were killed when the balloon burst into flames and crashed to the ground near
Carterton early this morning. The balloon was owned by Lance Hopping, of Ballooning NZ, and it is believed he was the pilot today. Smiles and waves from those on board the dawn holiday flight over the peaceful town turned to screams, when the balloon hit powerlines and plunged to the ground in flames.
Nurse Jacqui O'Connor, 38, was at the Carterton Campground on holiday with her family when she saw the accident. She was second on the scene, dodging live power lines in a bid to see if anyone had survived the fiery tragedy. She said the balloon became "like a cartoon character" as it combusted and darted around the sky before crashing.
"We saw the balloon going up and then dropping and then the basket bursting into flames, then kind of going up again," she said.
"It was almost like a cartoon character, it was just combusting. Then it had this long thin tail of smoke out the back.
It was like something off the Road Runner [cartoon], it was quite freaky."
O'Connor, a nurse at Waitakere Hospital in west Auckland, and her nursing friend Annette jumped into a car and rushed to the scene.
"There was just ash on one side where the balloon was, and a good 100 metres away were two people."
A woman whose farm the two people who landed on was doing CPR.
"There was live (power) wire all over the people and the paddock. That's where our dangers were."
O'Connor heard a woman about her age make a phonecall, "mum and dad have been in
a hot air balloon accident, they've hit power lines and they're dead."
The dead couple, believed to be from the Wairarapa, were aged in their 60s.
Police and emergency services were still at the scene in Somerset Road, Carterton.
"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,'' said police Area Commander Brent Register.
Wellington District Commander Superintendent Mike Rusbatch said it appeared the balloon had struck power lines.
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