Carterton balloon crash: More harrowing stories emerge

  • Breaking
  • 09/01/2012

By Charlotte Shipman

It has been another harrowing day for relatives of the balloon crash victims.

As the last of the bodies was removed from the site, the families were given the option of viewing photos of the final flight.

And some later shared a little more of the grief they are all going though.

The last four bodies of the ballooning tragedy were taken from the scene today, each escorted by police and family.

A makeshift memorial near the scene continues to grow. So too do harrowing stories about those who were on board the balloon.

Stephen Hopkirk died on his birthday; the ride was a present from his partner Belinda Harter.

January 7 was also his parents’ 56th wedding anniversary. 

In a statement his family describes Stephen as "the one his family and friends called on to help them and never said no....a real Kiwi guy, quiet, and unassuming but strong and determined.”

Ms Harter's son James has posted a tribute to his mother saying he would even miss her calling him ‘sweetpea’ in front of his mates. She was a devoted mother to her table tennis playing son.

“[She was] very supportive of James, nothing was any trouble - getting to the club, picking him up, dropping him off – she was great,” says Ron Menchi, a member of the Empire Table Tennis Club.

Elizabeth Nichols was Valerie Bennett's neighbour for nearly 50 years.

“We'll miss Val terribly. It's just a's terrible,” she says.

Ms Bennett had also received the ride as a birthday present.

“[Val] said she was looking forward to it, she was to do it in November when she was given the voucher but her daughter had to go back to America and the weather wasn't good,” says Ms Nichols.

So on Saturday, she took her cousin, Denise Dellabarca.

The quiet cul-de-sac where Ms Bennett lived shows just how close the connections in this tragedy are.

Ms Nichols was also friends with Ann and Desmond Dean, their children all grew up together. One of the Dean's daughters lives just a few houses away.

“We're just all so lost you can't settle to do anything it's just devastating,” says Ms Nichols.

Photographs of all the victims have now been released.

In Carterton, the condolence book tells of the grief the whole community is suffering.

What is left of the balloon's frame basket will stay at the scene.

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