Emergency services respond to hot air balloon crash in Arrowtown. Video / Supplied
A hot air balloon that crashed this morning near Queenstown leaving 11 people injured was seen moments earlier flying low near powerlines “coming down too fast”.
Emergency services rushed to the crash site at Morven Ferry Rd about 10am.
A St John spokesman said they received a 111 call from a member of the public at 9.54am.
“We have dispatched two helicopters, four ambulances, a manager in a first response vehicle and a First Response Unit to the scene.”
Two people with serious injuries are being transported to Dunedin Hospital by helicopters.
One person with moderate injuries and eight with minor injuries are being transported to Lakes District Hospital by ambulance.
Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult said he had just been briefed by police.
Contrary to reports, he said the balloon was landing where it was supposed to land at Morven Ferry Rd, but on landing it was “hit by a gust of wind”.
“Some people were thrown out of the basket, the balloon basket dragged across the ground until it hit a fence, and the remaining people either exited the basket or were thrown out of the basket,” Boult said.
“The balloon itself then came down on power lines attached to the house, but that had no effect on the people that were in the basket.
“On behalf of the community, I express our deepest sympathies to those involved, and we wish them all the very best for a speedy recovery.”
Boult had no information on where the passengers were from.
The owner of the property where the hot air balloon crashed, Phillip Bunn, said the balloon ended up next to his house.
He was not home at the time, but his sister was and witnessed the crash leaving her very upset.
Balloons landed on their property quite often.
“I just feel sorry for the people on board.”
He was still in the dark about what happened.
An Otago Daily Times reporter at the scene said it appeared the hot air balloon had hit a house. It was now lying on a paddock near the property.
A large semi-deflated balloon is visible through tree branches.
St John staff were seen walking into the house, where it’s understood the injured were being treated by paramedics.
There is a heavy police presence at the scene and the road has been cordoned off.
Gibbston resident Sonja McCord said she was driving when she noticed the craft barely above powerlines.
“I thought, ‘That’s coming down too fast’ and seemed a little bit in distress.”
She said it concerned her that the balloon was so close to the ground in an area where it shouldn’t be.
“Normally I see hot air balloons all the time on a winter morning and as I was coming back home from the school run I noticed the hot air balloon flying quite low and didn’t normally land in the Arrow Junction area. It looked like it was in a bit of trouble.”
A Fire and Emergency NZ spokesman said two crews, one from Arrowtown and one from Frankton are attending.
Photos from the scene show a rescue helicopter has landed in a paddock, flanked by several ambulances. A large semi-deflated balloon can be seen through tree branches. There are numerous power lines visible at the site.
Transport Accident Investigation Commission has confirmed it’s aware of the event but has not yet made a decision on an investigation.
Meanwhile, up to 160 homes are without power in the area.
The streets affected are Crown Terrace, Gibbston, McDonnell Rd, Morven Ferry Rd.
Aurora Energy says, ‘At the request of the emergency services we have turned off the power for the safety of emergency responders and the public as they attend an incident”.
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