Memorial service for those who died in hot air balloon crash

By Abigail Hartevelt

Rotorua's Natalie Piesse says her life has completely changed since the death of one of her best friends a year ago in the ballooning tragedy near Carterton.

"I just think `don't sweat the small stuff'. At the end what does it matter? It's important to be happy above all else because you could die tomorrow. . . I want to have the best life. I want to live for two people now,'' Miss Piesse said.

Miss Piesse's friend and former Rotorua woman 19-year-old Alexis Still and Miss Still's boyfriend Chrisjan Jordaan were among 11 who died in the hot air balloon crash.

Monday marks the first anniversary of the tragedy and Miss Piesse will travel to Carterton tomorrow for a memorial service on Monday. She and four other friends, who along with Miss Still, made up the "six chicks'', who were all friends in Rotorua, will head to Carterton for the memorial.

This will be Miss Piesse's second visit to Carterton since January 7 last year. She went down in July and went to the scene of crash.

"It was really emotional. It was really hard but it was important and necessary to do.''

Miss Piesse admitted Monday would be difficult.

"It will be horrible but I think it's important for the grieving process to go through that.''

As well as attending the memorial, Miss Piesse wants to check out a petting zoo which has been created by the family who own the property where the hot air balloon crashed. Miss Piesse and her friends also plan to go out for dinner and celebrate Miss Still's life.

Miss Piesse, who is studying in Wellington and has been back in Rotorua during the summer, said she missed her friend so much.

"I still think about her every day. . . I miss her bubbly, bright personality and her never ending love for life and her ability to just be her.''

Miss Piesse said she saw Miss Still's parents Allan and Vivienne a few days ago while they were on holiday in Rotorua. She said the Stills, who moved to Wellington in 2008, seemed to be doing okay and they would be attending the memorial in Carterton.

A private memorial service was to be held for Miss Still and Mr Jordaan today and a public memorial service will be held at Wellington's Arise Church at the Michael Fowler Centre tomorrow as part of its normal 10am service.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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