The granddaughter of a couple killed in a hot air balloon crash says the balloon's pilot tried frantically to free the basket from powerlines shortly before it crashed to the ground in flames.
Aimee Brewster, whose grandparents Desmond and Ann Dean perished on the January 2012 flight over Carterton, along with nine others, gave evidence this morning on the second day of a coroner's inquest into their deaths.
Ms Brewster was watching the flight with her mother Bronwyn when things went wrong.
The balloon burst into flames after it hit power lines in a farm paddock.
As part of her evidence at the inquest in Wellington this morning, Ms Brewster read two statements made to police following the accident. The first statement, taken two days after the accident, detailed what she saw on that morning.
"We saw them drop pretty dramatically to about the height of the surrounding trees," Ms Brewster said of the moments before the collision.
"I sped up [in the car] when I saw them get caught in the wire," she said.
She then described seeing 53-year-old pilot Lance Hopping "moving frantically" and trying to get the tangled power line off the balloon basket.
"I heard a kind of crackling noise. The next thing I saw was the basket caught on fire," she told the inquest.
After the balloon crashed in flames, it took a while before anyone could get near.
"It was still burning and you couldn't get close. I couldn't see any bodies as it was a black burning mess."
After describing the details of the crash scene, Ms Brewster talked about the conditions in the paddock where the accident occurred.
"There was a bit of a breeze at the time I got out of the car at Somerset Rd. It was not strong but you could feel it. The breeze was blowing east, it was quite an isolated gust of wind. I saw the balloon move slightly more quickly into the lines and I believe that the wind caused this."
A TAIC report previously established errors in judgement made by Mr Hopping ultimately caused the balloon's demise.
Toxicology results, detailed in two previously released Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) reports, showed Mr Hopping had cannabis in his system at the time of the accident.
TAIC were unable to rule out if impairment from the drug had contributed to errors he made that day.
Ms Brewster said in her second statement, given after TAIC released toxicology results showing Mr Hopping had cannabis in his system on the day of the accident, that she saw him smoking something shortly before the ill-fated flight departed.
Bronwyn Brewster said the same thing in her evidence yesterday.
The inquest, before Coroner Peter Ryan, continues.