Stuff co.nz 12 May 2014
Family members saw a flash of light and a crack as the basket of a hot air balloon hit 33,000 volt power lines and began to burn, the daughter of two of the victims has told an inquest.
The four day Coroner’s inquest began today into the deaths of the pilot and 10 passengers of the hot air balloon which crashed into a paddock near the town of Carterton about 7.30am on January 7 2012.
Valerie Zillah Bennett, 70, Diana Madge Cox, 63, Howard Cox, 71, Ann Lynette Dean, 70, Desmond Athol Dean, 65, Denise Dellabarca, 58, Belinda Elisabeth Harter, 49, Stephen Robert Hopkirk, 50, Johannes Christoffel Jordaan known as Chrisjan, 21, and Alexis Victoria Still, 19, all died in the crash.
The pilot was Lance Robert Hopping, 53. He was found to have levels of THC – an active ingredient in cannabis – of two micrograms per litre of blood.
Police later found he had been a long term user of cannabis.
The daughter of Ann and Desmond Dean, Bronwyn Brewster went with her daughter Aimee to the Paua Shell Factory on the morning of the balloon ride to watch them take off.
She said Hopping talked about flight procedures and where they were going. She remembered seeing Hopping smoking but did not know what he was smoking.