Mayor lauds balloon crash memorial site

By Nathan Crombie -
Vivienne Still unveils a plaque at the children's garden. Photo / APN
Vivienne Still unveils a plaque at the children's garden. Photo / APN

The founders of a memorial to the two youngest victims of the Carterton balloon tragedy will be forever linked to the pair, says Carterton Mayor Ron Mark.

Leanne and Clayton Brown spent the past six months designing a children's garden and farm park, Wallowing Heights, in memory of Wellington couple Alexis Still, 19, and Chrisjan Jordaan, 21, who jumped to their deaths to escape the balloon that struck powerlines and caught fire above the Browns' Somerset Rd property on January 7.

The balloon crash also claimed the lives of Carterton pilot Lance Hopping, 53, Wellington couple Howard and Diana Cox, aged 71 and 63; cousins Valerie Bennett, 70, of Masterton, and Denise Dellabarca, 58, of Paraparaumu; Masterton couple Desmond and Ann Dean, 65 and 70, Lower Hutt couple Stephen Hopkirk, 50, and Belinda Harter, 49.

Mrs Brown, one of the first people on the scene, refuses to talk publicly about what she witnessed, saying "those last few moments belong to the families and not in the public arena".

Mr Mark officially opened Wallowing Heights on Saturday in a private ceremony that included representatives from several families who lost loved ones.

Alexis' parents, Vivienne and Allan Still of Wellington, and Chrisjan's father Jan from Southland, unveiled the children's garden and cut the ribbons - yellow for Alexis and red for Chrisjan.

Mr Mark said yesterday the attendance of the families sealed the memorial with their approval and showed "they were very happy with what has been done".

"The fact that they were moved says it all," he said. "It's clear that what happened that morning remains deep in the hearts of Leanne and Clayton and will forever link them to Alexis and Chrisjan."

Mr Mark said he was mindful investigations still had to completed and "this still weighs heavy in the heart with these reports yet to come".

Wallowing Heights, which is the Browns' pig stud name, also features miniature ponies, and pedigree pig and sheep breeds. It will be open weekends and school holidays between 10am and 4pm, and weekdays by arrangement.

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