8 Jan 2012

Disaster answers awaited

2:35 pm on 8 January 2012

A Levin balloon pilot says the ballooning world is desperate for answers as to the cause of Saturday's crash.

Lift Off Levin balloon fiesta flight director Denis Hall says he knew the pilot for 15 years and says he was competent.

Mr Hall said that when a balloon hits powerlines it generally only becomes tangled.

But if the lines spark and that contacts the fuel system, the situation is much more serious.

''Once there is a fire in the basket, you've potentially got a disaster,'' he said, "because the fuel is under pressure and the ability of the pilot to keep the balloon under control becomes extremely limited.''

However, he said ballooning is one of the most benign sports, with only a handful of fatalities ever occurring in this country.

Another pilot, Mark Brown, the owner of the Kiwi Balloon Company in Hamilton, also says ballooning is generally very safe, but he has heard of similar accidents overseas.

Mr Brown said he had flown with Saturday's pilot several times and described him as experienced and capable.

Special services on Sunday

Churches in Carterton held special services on Sunday.

St David's Union Church said it would focus on how to deal with tragedy.

The church said there will likely be a combined service in the coming week to commemorate the dead and offer support to their friends and family.

Meanwhile, Carterton resident Chris Smith says the accident is all the more tragic because it happened in such a tight-knit community.

He knew something serious had happened when there was a power cut at about 7.25am on Saturday.

He says people were in shock as news of the crash spread throughout Carterton and almost everyone in town would know one of the victims.

Mr Smith says an accident like this would be tragic in any circumstances but because Carterton is a tight-knit community, it is even worse.