A hot air balloon burst into 30-foot flames and plummeted to the ground in New Zealand early Saturday, killing 11 people.

The Wellington Dominion Post quoted an official in Carterton, in the Wellington region, as saying all those aboard the balloon perished when it crashed shortly after 7:00am local time.

"I was watering the garden and heard a noise, the noise of the gas to raise the balloon," said resident David McKinlay. "I looked over and I couldn't believe it -- one side of the basket was on fire.

"It was just above the trees when I first saw it. It looked like he tried to raise it a bit higher, all of a sudden there was just 10 meters (33 feet) of flames.

"It was like a rocket coming down; it was just unbelievable."

Carterton is about 52 miles (84km) northwest of Wellington.