Hot Air Balloon Hits Power Lines And Bursts Into Flames

Published June 29, 2018 226 Plays $0.36 earned

Rumble / Close CallsFlying into a hot air balloon is something of an acquired taste. The sheer knowledge that there is nothing beneath you but an oversized basket and the only thing keeping you in the air is a big tarp does send shivers down one’s spine. Still, it is quite the unique experience and the sights you get to see while flying in a hot air balloon cannot compare. That is, if something like this doesn’t happen and ultimately ruin your experience.

The Michigan Challenge Balloonfest in Howell, Michigan is a three-day event held near Thompson Lake. It is as one imagines it - hundreds of hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes take to the sky. But one unfortunate pilot had to comes down far earlier than expected, when he lost control of his vessel and struck some power lines near the lake.

According to the competition director of the festival Phil Clinger, the pilot was flying solo and got out unharmed, after his balloon caught on fire and then fell into the lake “some 20 to 30 yards from shore”.

According to ABC Detroit affiliate WXYZ-TV, the incident happened during the festival flyover just after 8 o’clock in the morning. Spokesperson of the Federal Aviation Administration Lynn Lunsford says the FAA is still investigating, but what she could say was that the Cameron C-60 balloon simply went through the power lines and crashed into the lake. The pilot is said to be from Mason, Michigan and is registered as the owner of the same balloon with the FAA. About 40 homes were left without power for several hours after the incident, but it was later fully restored.

The pilot was removed from the sinking balloon by two fishermen. One of the fishermen, a man by the name of Dave Park said that he was bass fishing on the lake when he looked up and decided to take a few photos of the flyover when the balloon dropped and hit the wires. The torn wires were left dangling on the ground, sending sparks around, while charred piece of the balloon were littering the shoreline. Park then added that both the basket and the ballon were set ablaze when he helped the pilot get out and reach rescue crews on land.

Another bystander told news outlets that he witnessed the whole thing happen from land. “He was kind of flailing away and yelling and that’s when he broke free,” the witness said of the pilot who was still with the balloon as it the flames caught on. “He hit the water 20 to 30 yards from the shore and the guy who was fishing was coming from the other way and I was on 911 and I guess he was on 911, too.”

The Michigan Challenge Balloonfest began of Friday, June 22 and wrapped up on Sunday, June 24, when this incident occurred. Usually, the balloons launch in the evening, but according to the festival website, the fly-ins for Saturday and Sunday were rescheduled for the morning. Based on the updates on the festival’s social media pages, the event appeared to continue the rest of the day.