7 Jan 2013

First anniversary of Carterton balloon tragedy

4:04 pm on 7 January 2013

More than 50 people were at St Marks Cathedral in Carterton on Monday for a special memorial service marking the first anniversary since New Zealand's worst ballooning disaster.

Pilot Lance Hopping.

Pilot Lance Hopping. Photo: Geoff Walker Photography

A year ago a sightseeing balloon piloted by Lance Hopping hit power lines and caught fire close to the Wairarapa town, killing Mr Hopping and his 10 passengers.

The guests at the service comprised friends and families of the victims, police officers and members of the local volunteer fire brigade.

The Wairarapa Area Police Commander, Inspector Brent Register, says it's an important day to remember those who were lost in the accident.

He says he and other police staff have kept in close touch with the families and friends of the 11 victims.

The memorial held at St Mark's Cathedral began at 10am. Those gathered were led in prayer by the Reverend Jenny Chalmers.

Carterton mayor Ron Mark told the congregation it was important to remember those lost a year ago.

More prayers followed and the service was concluded as family and friends lit candles for those they had lost.

An interim report from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission released in 2012 said the pilot had cannabis in his system and the balloon was not airworthy due to problems with maintenance records.

The commission's full report is expected in the middle of this year.