9 Jan 2012

Police name balloon crash victims

4:25 pm on 9 January 2012

Police have released the names of the 11 people believed to have been on board the hot air balloon which crashed in Carterton on Saturday morning.

The crash occurred in farmland at around 7.25am on Saturday, about 80 kilometres north of Wellington.

Police say those on board the hot air balloon were:

  • Hot air balloon pilot Lance Hopping, 53, of Masterton;
  • Husband and wife Howard Cox, 71, and Diana Cox, 63, of Wellington.
  • Husband and wife Desmond Dean, 70, and Ann Dean, 65, of Masterton.
  • Cousins Valerie Bennett, 70 of Masterton and Denise Dellabarca, 58, of Paraparaumu.
  • Partners Stephen Hopkirk, 50, and Belinda Harter, 49 of Lower Hutt.
  • Johannes Jordann, 21, who was known as Chrisjan of Wellington and his girlfriend Alexis Still, 19, of Wellington.

Bodies removed from the scene

Police say a further two bodies were removed from the scene on Sunday afternoon.

Two were taken to the mortuary at Wellington hospital on Saturday night.

Police confirmed on Sunday that they were the people who had jumped or fallen from the burning gondola before it hit the ground at about 7.24am on Saturday.

They say the remaining bodies are expected to be removed from the scene on Sunday night and Monday.

Inspector Register says the Disaster Victim Identification process to formally identify all of the 11 victims will take several days to complete.

He says police wish to extend their heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased.

"Yesterday's fatal crash is not only a tragedy for the people of Carterton and the wider Wairarapa community, but for the whole of New Zealand, who are also mourning the loss of these victims. We will continue to support the families of the deceased as they begin to deal with their grief."

Relatives from several families visited the crash site on Sunday, where it was raining heavily.

Both the Transport Accident and Investigation Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority are investigating.

Inspector Brent Register said the police have spent the day formally interviewing witnesses to the crash.

''This is not a quick process and will take some time to complete,'' he said, ''to ensure we complete a thorough investigation into how this tragedy occurred and ensure incidents of this nature do not reoccur in the future."

The Transport Accident and Investigation Commission said earlier that a full inquiry could take anywhere from six months to a year.