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Crash a tragic reminder

By Seamus Boyer

[email protected]

I still get a twinge of sadness driving past Somerset Rd, just north of Carterton.

Knowing the tragedy that took place there four years ago is hard to shake.

Eleven people lost their lives in a paddock when a hot air balloon they were travelling in hit powerlines and caught fire.

The aftermath is well known, and the repercussions for the passengers’ families and the ballooning industry was enormous.

On Saturday another crash took place, this time in Texas, with eerily similar circumstances.

A hot air balloon carrying 16 people caught fire and crashed in a field, killing all onboard.

It took place near high-voltage power lines, at 7.40am.

The Carterton crash also happened on a summery Saturday, at 7.20am.

The Texas crash happened near the town of Lockhart, population 13,000 – no doubt a small, peaceful, rural town.

Just like Carterton.

I was the first reporter on the scene that January day in 2012, overhearing on arrival that there were no survivors.

I will never forget the faces of the victims’ families on being told the terrible news.

For them, this new accident will bring back awful memories of that day.

That such a thing could happen in an industry which brings great happiness to its customers is heartbreaking.

Following the Carterton crash flowers piled up near the scene in a spontaneous tribute to those who had lost their lives.

The community response was one of shock and terrible sadness.

No doubt the Texas community at the heart of their tragedy will react in a similar fashion.

Commenting on the crash a spokesman for the Balloon Federation of North America said, rightly, that such events were rare.

“There are thousands of balloons that go up every year. This is unspeakably tragic, but it is rather unique.”

That may be so, but for all those affected by the Carterton crash, this new tragedy will be all too familiar.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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