Bad weather delays balloon festival

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A tribute flight by family members of the victims of the Carterton balloon crash has been postponed because of bad weather.

The take-off was scheduled for this morning as part of a mass ascension to launch the Balloons Over Wairarapa festival.

It was to honour pilot Lance Hopping and 10 passengers who died when a balloon caught fire then crashed after hitting power lines in January.

Festival flight director Martyn Stacey said the event, involving about 25 balloons, has been postponed until tomorrow because of a biting wind, low cloud and rainy conditions.

Lance Hopping's daughter Hayley is planning to join relatives of Denise Dellabarca, her cousin Valerie Bennett and Lower Hutt couple Stephen Hopkirk and Belinda Harter.

They will release 11 small, helium-filled white dove balloons as the other passenger balloons take off five minutes after them.

"I think that's very positive for them, it's a form of healing for them [to be part of the festival], and they want to keep involved with ballooning,'' said Mr Stacey.

On the ground, members of the public will have a moment's silence to honour the dead before hundreds of coloured small helium-filled balloons are released.

"We'll have about 500 helium balloons up in the air around all these balloons flying, so that could be quite spectacular,'' Mr Stacey said.

Other festival activities will contine today as planned. About 1.30pm balloonists will make their way around Carterton and Masterton schools to talk to children.

"The idea is to sow an interest in ballooing and reiterate that ballooning is a very safe, and marvellous sport,'' Mr Stacey said.

The day will end with a 'burner parade' along the main street of Carterton at dusk.

"In other words the baskets are set up with the burners on top of them on the back of open trailers. We have a police escort up the main street.''

Mr Stacey said those involved in the festival were determined to reinstate the longstanding good reputation of the activity.

"I think the mood this year is very, very positive. I think balloonists have taken on board what's happened, but they're keen to promote the sport as a very safe sport.''

- APNZ

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