Local pilot weighs in on Virginia hot air balloon accident - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Local pilot weighs in on Virginia hot air balloon accident

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By: Samantha Lavien
Slavien@abc6.com
Twitter: @samanthalavien

Authorities say two bodies have been found and one is still missing after a balloon burst into flames Friday night at a balloon festival in Virginia.

Officials say the balloon was in the process of landing when it collided with power lines.

"We thought the balloon was just going to catch fire and land in the field but instead it just kept rising and we could see two passengers inside of it,” said witness Derick Pattie.

A spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police said that three hot air balloons were landing in close proximity and that two made it down safely.

Witnesses report seeing two people jump or fall from the burning balloon.

"You could hear them screaming please dear God, sweet Jesus help us, we're going to die. Oh my god please help us, please help us," said witness Carrie Bradley.

A veteran balloon pilot here in Massachusetts tells ABC 6 News that power lines are the single biggest danger in ballooning.

"All pilots are very aware of that. We receive a lot of training we go to safety seminars consistently.. We’re aware of the power lines, but sometimes they're hidden behind trees and there's a lot of reasons something like that could happen," said Joe Hamilton a pilot and co-owner of Balloon Fantasies of Rehoboth.

Hamilton wouldn't speculate about what caused this accident, but did say unfortunately if a balloon does ignite there are not many options.

"When a flame comes to that magnitude it's going to give a lot more heat to the balloon and it's going to go up in the air and it's going to be out of control. Once it gets that high and it's on fire it's pretty much a bad situation," said Hamilton.

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