ELEVEN people have been killed after a hot air balloon crashed near Carterton on New Zealand's northern island this morning.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has opened an inquiry into the accident, close to the Clareville showgrounds. and is due to have investigators at the scene about midday.
All 11 people on board the scenic flight and were no survivors.
One witness described flames bursting from the balloon's basket as it hit the ground.
David McKinlay, a Hornesberry St resident, said ''It looked as if he had tried to take it higher. It was just flames and it was just a long streak of flames. Probably about 10 metres long. The impact must have been terrible.''
McKinlay, who called 111, saw the flames shooting out of the basket of the dark blue and maroon striped balloon.
After alerting emergency services, he said the balloon was 150 metres in the air and dropped quickly, describing it as ''just a sheer flame as it hit the ground."
"It came down like a bloody rocket and then there was a big bang,'' he said.
Ballooning NZ director Lance Hopping is thought to be the owner of the hot air balloon, although it is not known if he was on board the flight. He has over 1000 hours of commercial ballooning experience.
The balloon is believed to be a Cameron A-210, which can carry ten passengers plus one pilot.
Hopping is the safety manager of the popular Balloons Over Wairarapa event, according to organiser Jonathan Hooker.
There was a Transpower electricity outage immediately following the accident, although it is not known how widespread the power cut was.
"The power went out at our place in Carterton," said local Bella Biggs.
"They hit a power pole. Power has only just come back on."
Police received the first report of the tragic accident slightly before 7:30am this morning. All emergency services are in attendance.
Police say they have no details yet of what caused the early morning crash in clear, bright conditions with minimal wind. The region is well known for its hot air ballooning.
More details of the crash will be released as information becomes available.
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