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Authorities investigate balloon crash that killed 11

New Zealand police are investigating why a hot air balloon hit electrical wires and crashed in flames two days ago, killing 11 people.

At least six agencies are probing the crash with formal identification of the bodies expected to take "several days," New Zealand police said in a statement yesterday.

The pilot and all 10 of the passengers on board are believed to be from New Zealand, police said.

The balloon struck power lines and caught fire as it was preparing to land after a 45-minute flight near Carterton, about 50 miles (80km) northeast of the capital, Wellington, according to police.

After flames erupted, a male and a female jumped from the basket to their deaths and the craft made a sharp ascent before crashing to the ground and killing those still on board.

The investigation "is not a quick process and will take some time to complete," Wairarapa Area Commander Inspector Brent Register said in the statement.

Four of the bodies had been removed from the scene with the other seven yet to be moved, Inspector Register said.

"Experts will be looking to learn any lessons from the investigations which have begun today which can help improve safety for others in the future," Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said yesterday in a statement.

The accident follows recent New Zealand disasters including a February earthquake in Christchurch that killed 181 and subsequent aftershocks that left the nation facing a damage bill of at least NZ$15bn (€9.2bn).

Explosions at the Pike River coal mine in October 2010 claimed 29 lives.

The balloon accident is the biggest loss of New Zealand life in an air accident since 1979, when an Air New Zealand sightseeing flight over Antarctica crashed into Mount Erebus and killed all 257 passengers and crew.

An accident in 1989 resulted in 13 deaths when two balloons collided near the central Australian town of Alice Springs.


Irish Independent