Passengers were excited as they prepared to board the hot air balloon flight that would end their lives, Wairarapa photographer Geoff Walker says.
Walker has for four years taken photos for balloon pilot Lance Hopping, recording the special day of hundreds of his clients.
He provides images of balloon flights from start to finish as part of the package.
Today started out like any other, only to end with 11 people dead, the worst New Zealand air disaster since Erebus in 1979.
"It was just brilliant, everybody was really excited - this was going to be the best day of their life," Walker said.
His photos tracked the doomed flight from the start right up to when the balloon "erupted into flames", near the planned end of its flight.
"I was taking photos about 400 metres away on the big lens," he says.
"Then I saw a flash - literally just a flash of light - and then the whole thing (balloon) erupted into flames."
From where he was standing he could not tell if the balloon had hit power lines.
He dialled 111 immediately, then went straight to the crash site.
Two "crew" members were already there plus several other people.
He was too distressed to describe the crash site.
Police are using his photos to piece together what happened. He would not make them available to the news media.
He called Hopping as a "brilliant guy".
"He started out as a freezing worker and got himself to be a helicopter pilot - that's pretty amazing. He just loved ballooning and taking people up in the air to share the experience.
"His daytime job was a truancy officer."
- Wairarapa News
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