Eleven killed in New Zealand hot air balloon accident
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Eleven people were killed in a hot air balloon accident in New Zealand on Saturday after the vessel crashed near Carterton, a small town just north of the capital Wellington, an area popular for hot air ballooning.
AFP - All 11 people on board a hot air balloon which crashed in a ball of flames in New Zealand Saturday were killed, police and medical officials said.
Police confirmed there were "multiple deaths", and a local district health board spokeswoman Jill Stringer said none of the 11 people on board the balloon survived.
The hot air balloon went down near Carterton, a small town just north of the capital Wellington and a popular area for hot air ballooning.
Police said there was no immediate indication of what caused the early morning tragedy which occurred in fine weather with minimal wind.
However, one witness, David McKinlay, told reporters he looked up to see one side of the basket on fire and "all of a sudden there was just 10 metres of flames".
"It was like a rocket coming down; it was just unbelievable," he said.
McKinlay, who alerted the emergency services, said the balloon was about 150 metres in the air when it plummeted to the ground.
Another witness told Fairfax News he was looking out of his window when he saw the balloon appear to hit a power cable.
"The people were enjoying a nice ride and by the looks of it they clipped a power wire," he said.
"Then I heard the screams and looked out the window and heard it coming down. I was having my breakfast and I heard them. They sounded like screams of joy but they weren't.
"It wasn't coming from a great deal of height. I ran down the road to see if I could help but by that stage it was too late. it was just burned out. By the time the emergency services got there, there wasn't much of a chance."
Two of the passengers are believed to have leaped from the burning basket and were found in a nearby paddock.
Police say they were first alerted to the tragedy at 7:26 am (1826 GMT Friday) and websites for ballooning companies in Carterton, about 150 kilometres (95 miles) north of Wellington, recommend early morning flights.
Reporters at the scene said the crash site has been cordoned off and only emergency workers and the families of those on board the balloon are being allowed through.