Hundreds gather for balloon tragedy memorial

More than 200 mourners have gathered this morning at St Mark's Church in Carterton to remember the 11 victims of the hot air balloon tragedy one year ago today.

Among those attending were friends and families of the victims, firefighters and police personnel.

The service was led by vicar Jenny Chalmers and Carterton Mayor Ron Mark.

Mrs Chalmers invited mourners to light a candle and speak the name of the person they were remembering, and the memory that first came to mind.

She said it was a service of remembrance for the victims and an opportunity to show gratitude to those who cared for them.

Mr Mark said the tragedy had started out as a magical experience for those on board the hot air balloon, but ended in horror and tragedy, and devastated 11 families and the entire Wairarapa and Carterton communities.

"Rarely does a day go by that we do not think of you, the mourners, the friends and families of the dead, the loved ones, and what happened that day.

"They are, were and will be forever part of us."

Mr Mark said the tragedy had tested emergency workers, and he was proud of how they had responded.

Eleven people died on January 7, 2012, when the hot air balloon piloted by Lance Hopping struck powerlines just before 7.30am and caught fire, before crashing to the ground.

The victims were: Pilot Lance Hopping, 53, of Carterton; Husband and wife Howard and Diana Cox of Wellington, aged 71 and 63; Husband and wife Desmond and Ann Dean of Masterton, aged 65 and 70; Cousins Valerie Bennett, 70, of Masterton and Denise Dellabarca, 58, of Paraparaumu; Partners Stephen Hopkirk, 50, and Belinda Harter, 49, both of Lower Hutt; Johannes Jordaan, known as Chrisjan, 21, of Wellington, and girlfriend Alexis Still, 19, of Wellington.

An official report into the cause of the crash is yet to be released.

- The Wairarapa Times-Age

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