Parents unite in balloon tragedy grief

By Hana Garrett-Walker

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,  suddenly lost their children on on January 7 last year when the hot air balloon Chrisjan and his girlfriend, Alexis Still, were 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 cellphone. [At] Christmas he gave us a photo of them, it was good,'' Mr Jordaan said.

Today marks a year since the horrific tragedy and a public memorial service for all 11 victims was to be held in the morning at  St Mark's church in Carterton.

It is not yet known what caused the crash, with a final report by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission  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.''

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 on Saturday.

Yesterday, worshippers at Arise church, where the couple met and where both were heavily involved, paid respects to the youngest of the ballooning victims.

Alice Young-Drew, 21,  said it was a great loss.

"Sometimes it's still a bit shocking.''

Senior Pastor at Arise, John Cameron, told the more than 1000 worshippers  that Chrisjan at tacked 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 the church service, but did not want to comment.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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