A memory that will never fade

By amie.hickland@age.co.nz, Amie Hickland


Several Somerset Rd residents say memories of the Carterton balloon tragedy still haunt them a year on, although they have moved on with life.

Megan Searle was away when the tragedy occurred but the balloon and basket landed outside her home, while Neil and Aurea Hickland saw most of the incident from their kitchen window.

Two liquidambar trees have been planted on the site and a fence was put up around the trees, which were donated by Lou and Steven Portman of Clareville Nursery.

Mrs Searle said she was reminded of what happened every time she hung out her washing near the paddock.

"It will always be a living memory," she said.

Mrs Searle said it was hard not to think about the crash with a memorial outside her house.

"We're always just going to be guardians of the site."

Mr Hickland said visiting the site was similar to a cemetery and people occasionally left flowers.

Mrs Hickland said she could still remember the balloon coming down and occasionally had flashbacks.

All three residents had high praise for emergency services who attended the scene.

"They were so caring and informative and very respectful of the fact it was your home," said Mrs Searle.

Somerset Rd residents Leanne and Clayton Brown have also dedicated part of their property, Wallowing Heights, to the memory of the tragedy's youngest victims, Alexis Still, 19, and Chrisjan Jordaan, 21.

Mrs Brown said members of the young couple's families had returned to the crash site on several occasions.

She said her husband planned the memorial. "The idea of providing a place for children where they could laugh, have fun and learn about animals seemed to fit in with their view on life."

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark officially opened Wallowing Heights last month in a private ceremony that included representatives from several families who had lost loved ones in the balloon tragedy.

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

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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