Deans' treat turns to disaster

16:00, Jan 07 2012
Carterton hot air balloon crash
Friends and family members at the scene of the fatal hot air balloon crash on Somerset Rd in Carterton.
Carterton hot air balloon crash
Emergency services at the scene of the fatal hot air balloon crash on Somerset Rd in Carterton.
Carterton hot air balloon crash
Emergency services at the scene of the fatal hot air balloon crash on Somerset Rd in Carterton.
Carterton hot air balloon crash
Friends and family members at the scene of the fatal hot air balloon crash on Somerset Rd in Carterton.
Carterton hot air balloon crash
Friends and family members at the scene of the fatal hot air balloon crash on Somerset Rd in Carterton.
Lance Hopping
Lance Hopping, who was flying the balloon when it crashed.
Balloon Bevan Lambess
Bevan Lambess, witness to the horror crash.
Balloon Bevan Lambess
The scene of the crash from the air.
Balloon police gallery
Police talk to media at the scene of a horrific balloon crash near Carterton. From left to right: Wellington District commander Superintendent Mike Rusbatch and Wairarapa area commander Inspector Brent Register.
Balloon police gallery
The site of the crash being photographed from a fire.
Balloon Scene Forensic
The scene of the fatal balloon accident in Somerset Rd, Carterton.
Balloon grieving
Relatives at the scene of the fatal Carterton air balloon crash.
Balloon grieving
A woman places flowers at the scene of the fatal Carterton air balloon crash.
Balloon grieving
Nurses Jacqui O'Connor and Annette Tempest were among the first on the scene of the fatal hot air balloon disaster on Somerset Rd in Carterton, Wairarapa.
Balloon Crash
A man talks to police officers at the scene of the fatal balloon crash in Carterton.
Balloon Crash
People leave the scene of the hot air balloon crash, near Carterton.
Deputy chief investigator for TAIC (Transport Accident Investigation Commission) Peter Williams, left, Police Area commander Inspector Brent Register, and Nathan Guy at Saturday's press conference regarding the fatal balloon accident near Carterton.
Deputy chief investigator for TAIC (Transport Accident Investigation Commission) Peter Williams, left, Police Area commander Inspector Brent Register, and Nathan Guy at Saturday's press conference regarding the fatal balloon accident near Carterton.
Ron Mark
Carterton mayor Ron Mark at Saturday's press conference.
Flowers being placed on Somerset Road near the site of the fatal balloon crash.
Flowers being placed on Somerset Road near the site of the fatal hot air balloon crash.
An onlooker took this photo moments before the fatal crash near Carterton.
An onlooker took this photo only moments before the fatal crash near Carterton.
Lance Robert Hopping, 50, was to marry long-time partner Nina Jane Kelynack at Easter weekend.
Lance Robert Hopping, 50, was to marry long-time partner Nina Jane Kelynack at Easter weekend.
Grief Carterton balloon crash
Friends and family at the scene of Saturday's hot air balloon tragedy at Carterton.
Balloon accident victim Alexis Still.
Alexis Still.
Balloon scene
Police at the scene of the balloon crash which killed 11 people.
Balloon scene two
Two of the three tents covering the area where the balloon crashed.
Wairarapa Area Commander Brent Register talks to media.
Wairarapa Area Commander Brent Register talks to media during a briefing on investigations into the fatal balloon crash.
TAIC communications manager Peter Northcote.
TAIC communications manager Peter Northcote.
Parents of crash vitim Alexis Still, Allan and Vivienne Still with her two older siblings Ben, 22, and Emma-Jane, 24.
Parents of crash vitim Alexis Still, Allan and Vivienne Still with her two older siblings Ben, 22, and Emma-Jane, 24.
Balloon basket
A TAIC picture points to where the fuel supply later burst.
balloon tragedy graphic
The path of the balloon and the place where it crashed.

It was to be a celebratory treat for Des and Ann Dean.

Instead the Masterton couple, in their 60s, became victims of the Carterton hot air balloon tragedy.

It is understood two of the other couples came from Wellington, one from Porirua, and the other from Lower Hutt.

Friends and family gather at the scene of yesterday's hot air balloon tragedy at Carterton, which claimed 11 lives.
GRIEF-STRICKEN: Friends and family gather at the scene of yesterday's hot air balloon tragedy at Carterton, which claimed 11 lives.

Carterton residents were left reeling by the tragedy, but it is the death of the Deans – Masterton community stalwarts – that has hit hardest.

Des and Ann had three adult daughters – Fiona, Bronwyn and Deborah. A semi-retired builder, Des was also a keen squash player.

Masterton Squash Club president Malcolm Wyeth, good friends with the family, said he was too upset to share his memories.

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All three daughters took after their parents in their love of squash, with the youngest, Fiona, starting as a junior at the Masterton club alongside her mum and dad and elder sisters, then going on to play at representative level.

Masterton councillor Gary Caffell said Des was an excellent player and he had even competed against him in the past. "He gave it everything he had," he said.

Caffell also knew pilot Lance Hopping. His wife Barbara had spent the day with Hopping's fiancee Nina Kelynack, supporting her at her home – they were friends and work colleagues.

He said it had been a tragic day for the community. "It's difficult for everybody to come to terms with. It's really sad – really sad."

Former world squash champion Dame Susan Devoy also paid tribute to Des Dean. She had met him several times during her career and also knew Fiona Dean well.

"I hadn't seen him for a few years but he was one of those stalwart blokes you meet, that you never forget, really," Devoy told the Sunday Star-Times.

"Sport has a lot of those. I am totally taken aback. It is awful.

"Fiona is a fantastic young women. And she did pretty well because her parents were those local rural supporters.

"I just want to send my condolences to the family."

Police know the names of all on the ill-fated trip from photos taken by photographer Geoff Walker, who worked with Hopping to photograph each trip.

But the bodies were so badly burnt that disaster recovery experts face a grisly task in officially identifying each of them.

While two of the passengers leapt to their deaths, the other eight and Hopping were in the flaming basket that plunged to the ground soon after touching powerlines.

Two of the 11 bodies were removed from the crash scene last night and taken to Wellington Hospital's mortuary, Wairarapa police area commander Brent Register said.

The other nine bodies remained at the scene, which Register described as "very bad".

It could take the identification team several days to complete its work, he said.

Register said a family liaison team had spent yesterday working with some of the families of those killed, providing them with support.

"Our thoughts are with them all as they come to terms with what has occurred."

Tony Wall, Marika Hill, Nicola Russell and Neil Reid

Sunday Star Times