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Anger over cow struck by hot air balloon


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Anger over cow struck by hot air balloon


This is a story about a hot-air balloon, a dead cow and an angry farmer.

On April 21, 2002, Max Imstepf set off in his hot-air balloon from the Morrinsville Recreation Reserve with five passengers on board.

About an hour later, as he set the balloon down on farmland, the crown says rural tragedy struck with the death of cow 208.

Imstepf denied charges of operating a hot-air balloon in a careless manner when dairy cows were in the immediate area, and low-level flying.

Imstepf's lawyer, Brett Cooper, said the Civil Aviation Authority complaint was false and driven by farmer John Faulkner's anger at not receiving the full insurance claim, which Mr Cooper said was inflated.

Mr Cooper said a vet would give evidence in Hamilton District Court that the cow had died three hours before the incident, a claim Mr Faulkner strongly denied.

Mr Faulkner also denied threatening Imstepf.

Even the weather is in dispute, with crown witnesses telling of a perfect day, while Mr Cooper produced photos taken by Imstepf on that morning, showing fog.

The authority, represented by Deborah Davies, said that after two botched landing attempts, Imstepf finally set down on the Faulkners' farm.

It said that as the balloon passed beside a farm race, its burner emitted a loud noise, spooking the cows. Seeing the cows' distress, Mr Faulkner's wife, Robin, went to investigate and found one cow dead and another injured.

Yesterday, her husband agreed he had filed an insurance claim for $5937 for the death of one cow and injuries to four others.

In July 2002, Mr Faulkner received a final payment of $5200, minus the $680 he claimed for his time. Yesterday, he denied the claim was inflated.

"I've got a business that has a gross value of $5 million and a turnover of $1 million per annum. . . I think if I was to dishonestly try and do something, I'd do something a little more grandiose than that," he told the hearing.

He said Imstepf was "tardy" in seeing him about the dead cow and had promised everything would be taken care of.

Mr Faulkner sought advice from Federated Farmers before filing a complaint with the authority.

The case continues today.


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