Crash the beginning of tragic year for couple

By, Nathan Crombie

The son and daughter-in-law of a Carterton balloon crash victim have endured a year of tragic losses since the disaster a year ago today.

Gavin and Nicky Bennett travelled from their home near Chicago for the memorial service today for crash victims, which included Gavin's mother Valerie Bennett and her cousin Denise Dellabarca.

Mr Bennett said he and his wife had struggled through a year of tragic deaths since the balloon crash.

The couple, who are both nurses, had rushed to New Zealand in January, and within three weeks of returning home in April had received news of the cot death of a cousin's 6-month-old foster child.

Mr Bennett said the year ended tragically with the crash of a rescue helicopter piloted by a friend and carrying two nursing colleagues, killing all three.

Mrs Bennett said the couple had buoyed each other throughout the year despite at times "feeling totally overwhelmed". "It's been a really tough year. We've spent more hours crying than laughing anyway," she said.

The couple said they were grateful "beyond words" for the support they were given by the Wairarapa community last year. "It's comforting in a way to know you're not going through this alone," she said.

Mr Bennett said the interim report into the balloon crash released in May should not have included a toxicology report that showed cannabis had been found in the blood of pilot Lance Hopping.

"It should be about making sure any overarching safety problem is taken care of. Don't just scapegoat one guy."

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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