Eleven people have died in what is the worst New Zealand aviation disaster since the Erebus crash in 1979.
Two Auckland based nurses who attended the crash described the distressing scene as family members waiting for their loved ones to land witnessed the accident.
Family members were making frantic calls to relatives saying: "Come now, we need you. Mum and dad have been in a balloon accident. It's burst into flames and they're dead".
Two passengers plummeted to their deaths from a burning hot air balloon as it crashed to the ground near a peaceful New Zealand township on Saturday, killing nine others.
Emergency services were at the scene within three minutes but could not help any of the victims, who were coming to the end of a scenic 45 minute flight and hoping to land in a paddock about 7.25am.
The balloon hit power lines at Clareville, near the Wairarapa township of Carterton and the sparks started a fire in the basket, Wairarapa police Area Commander Inspector Brent Register told reporters on Saturday afternoon.
Two passenger, a man and woman, appeared to have jumped from the basket, he said.
The fire then flared and the balloon dropped sharply to the ground, killing the rest of the occupants.
Stunned witnesses described watching as flames licked the side of the basket before shooting up the guy ropes and setting fire to the canopy.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," said David McKinley. "It was just above the trees when I first saw it... it looked like [the pilot] tried to raise it a bit higher... all of a sudden there was just 10 metres of flames. It was like a rocket coming down – it was just unbelievable."
One resident who saw the crash said he had waved at the passengers as the balloon passed overhead: "Then I heard the screams and looked out the window and heard it coming down. I was having my breakfast and I heard them, they sounded like screams of joy but they weren't."