Jan and Annie Jordaan were never able to meet their son's "energetic and vibrant'' girlfriend, but it's because of the relationship that they have made a new set of friends - in her parents.
The two sets of parents, who had previously never met, both suddenly lost their children on on January 7 last year when the hot air balloon Chrisjan and his girlfriend Alexis Still were going for a joy ride in near Carterton crashed in flames, killing all 11 on board.
Just two days before the crash, Chrisjan, 21, and Alexis, 19, had bought tickets to visit Chrisjan's parents in Southland. It would be the first time he would introduce his girlfriend to his parents.
"He first didn't tell us about her, but we knew there was something going on, and they sent me a pic on the cell phone. [At] Christmas he gave us a photo of them, it was good,'' Mr Jordaan said.
Tomorrow marks a year since the horrific tragedy, and a public memorial service for all 11 victims will be held in the morning at Carterton's St Mark's church.
It is not yet known what caused the crash, with a final report by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) not due to be released until mid-year.
Mr Jordaan said the past year had gone by "very fast''.
"I look back and think he's dead now and they will stay behind and we will move forward ... all we can do now is try to carry out what they believed in.''
Mrs Jordaan said it did not matter what the TAIC report finally said.
"It was an accident, and we'll just get through it, it doesn't matter.''
She remembered her son being smitten with Alexis.
"We never met her, we never had the privilege of meeting her. And we are definitely poorer for that, because she did make such a difference.''
Despite never meeting Alexis, the couple have become close to her parents, Vivienne and Allan Still.
"We have new friends now, because I do understand he [Chrisjan] said we were quite alike and we would really really like them, and when we met them, I know what he means,'' Mrs Jordaan said.
A private memorial service for Chrisjan and Alexis was held yesterday.
This morning, worshippers at Arise church, where the couple first met and where both were heavily involved, paid respects to the youngest of the ballooning victims.
Friend Vicky Andrew, 24, who knew Alexis since school and was flatting with Chrisjan at the time of the crash, said the past year had been hard.
"Obviously this whole year has been real hard. The great thing is we've all been together,'' she told APNZ.
The pair, who met when they both travelled to Africa on mission work, were inspirational, Ms Andrew said.
"If they were still here they would change the world.''
Alice Young-Drew, 21, also said it was a great loss when her two friends died. "Sometimes it's still a bit shocking.''
Senior Pastor at Arise, John Cameron, told the more than 1000 worshippers today that Chrisjan attacked life with passion.
"He left everything out in the field.
"He was a little bit naughty, but never cruel or uncaring.''
Alexis was remembered as "energetic, vibrant and larger than life''.
Alexis' parents attended this morning's church service, but did not want to comment to media.
Carterton balloonist Rick Walczak told Radio New Zealand that following last year's crash, he had struggled to secure sponsorship for ballooning events because companies were worried the activity was not safe.
It had also been difficult for commercial ballooning sightseeing companies in Hamilton and Christchurch.
"Business is starting to come back again from Hamilton ... I hope it is not too late for the South Island people, because they're really good operators down there, really switched on. They've struggled after this accident, I know that,'' he said.
Mr Walczak was confident that the TAIC report would not reveal wider problems with ballooning.
- APNZBy Hana Garrett-Walker Email Hana