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Hot air balloon ride 'would end up a nightmare'
to the editor,
I booked with Sundance Balloons four years ago and every time we were
scheduled the flight was cancelled. Finally things were looking good as
I checked in at 2:00 pm Sat., June 7, 2014. Little did I know I
was about to embark on a trip that would end up a nightmare.
My 18-year-old son Kirk and I arrived at the KOA campgrounds at 6:00 pm
as instructed and no sight of the operator Sundance Balloons . At about
6:15 pm they drove in. They determined that due to weather we would
lift off in Beeton. Twenty minutes later we arrived and the team got to
work on setting up the balloon.
The team consisted of a driver, two helpers and a pilot I find out .
The pilot is filling-in. The two helpers were just hired and I'm not
sure about the driver.
It took one and a half hours to get airborne after a series of failed
attempts and some real questionable moments. At one point Norm (the man
who was ejected, and was beside me by the way when he was) said "sure
don't make me feel confident." Oh and by the way, I wanted to mention
that the pilot was hard of hearing. Could only hear you if he was
wearing his hearing aid and had it turned on.
The pilot instructed us to get in lying down because the basket is on
its side. My quick observation of the basket is five compartments,
Pilot and propane tanks in middle and two people in each of the four
compartments around the middle. My son and I made it 10 People and with
the pilot, we were 11.
Just as the balloon was about to lift, Kirk and I were still outside
the basket. I said to the pilot "should we get on now?" He stared at me
with a blank face. One of the other passengers said,"he is deaf " and
said you get here and your son should go to the other side for balance.
The take-off was fine and the subsequent flight was fine as well,
except for the fact we just sailed over a grain silo and were about 10
ft from it.
The sun was setting and the pilot said "well, we should land" and
pointed to a field. I'm still taking pics and at this point we are
still 200-300 feet off the ground. I no sooner put my phone away and
notice the ground is coming at us at an alarming rate. There was no
alert from pilot, no warning to brace for impact. Nothing. Clearly
something was wrong.
The pilot was completely focused on the fact we were going down too
fast. But why did he not initiate lift? Why was our descent so rapid?
And why did a pilot who was so experienced not say anything to us?
I grabbed the straps in the basket and held on for dear life. We hit
the ground so hard my ankles hurt. Then the basket immediately lurched
over 90 degrees and Norm was ejected. Right in front of my eyes.
Then in another split second the massive 3,600 lb gondala moved over
him like a steam roller as the balloon was still quite full and wanted
to drift down the field. Away we went again, this time being dragged
another 100-200 hundred feet until the gondala was still.
Ricky, Norm's son-in-law couldn't believe his father-in-law was back
laying in field crushed . The lady beside me in shock suffered ankle
Police and fire and ambulance arrived and treated us. We were taken
back to our cars at KOA campground. And when we arrived back at the car
I hugged my son and thanked God we survived .
I'm personally suffering from injuries and Sundance Balloons has
offered me nothing. Not even a sorry, not even a refund, not even
....... I can't believe it.
Editor's Note: On
June 12, 2014, the Transportation Safety Board updated this "Occurance
Type" from "Incident" to the more serious "Accident" resulting directly
from the operation of an aircraft.