Pattaya Daily News

27 March 2012 :: 14:03:41 pm 62802

Hot Air Balloon Crashes into Power Lines in UK

The hot air balloon pilot aged just 18 who crashed into high voltage cables... and was left hanging with two passengers for FIVE hours
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This is the moment when a father thought he was seeing his son die as a hot air balloon burst into flames after hitting 132,000-volt power cables.

Watching from another balloon, Martin Griffiths feared the worst as 18-year-old Adam drifted into the overhead lines.

As he landed in a nearby field, Mr Griffiths, 42, heard bolts of electricity blasting through the canopy of his son’s craft.

Then the small basket under the balloon containing Adam and his two companions was set ablaze by showers of sparks.

Convinced that Adam had been killed, Mr Griffiths sprinted back to the scene.

He added: ‘I had landed a couple of fields along when I heard the bang. I thought Adam was dead. The basket was on fire and he was stuck in the cables.’

As the passengers, Colin Giggle and a girl aged 16 who has not been named, cowered in the bottom of the 9ft-square basket, Adam doused the flames with a fire extinguisher.

Adam was unhurt, Mr Giggle suffered a burned shoulder and the teenager’s hair was singed.

Then, after their brush with death, the passengers – who had not been in a hot air balloon before – and their pilot played I-spy as they dangled 45ft off the ground for five hours waiting for the power to be switched off so they could be brought down by rescue teams.

Mr Giggle, 52, said they had to ‘curl up like hedgehogs’ as they smashed into the wires, adding: ‘It was like being inside a firework. There were a lot of sparks.

‘This sort of thing kills people – we were very lucky to walk away from the scene.

‘As we dropped below the wires we were waiting for contact, thinking it would cause a spark. When the wires twanged on the basket we did think, “This will hurt”.

‘The experience definitely used up one of my nine lives.’

Adam and his father were in two of six balloons that had taken off together from a field at Riseley, Bedfordshire, on Sunday afternoon. They had travelled about ten miles when a gust blew Adam into pylons near Bozeat, Northamptonshire, just before 6pm.

Adam, from Rushden, Northamptonshire, said: ‘I did panic after hitting the wires.

‘There was quite a bang when we hit the power lines, and then I saw there was a fire in the basket.

‘It is all a bit of a blur really, but it was scary.

‘You go through all these things in your training but it still doesn’t come into play until it actually happens.’ And he added: ‘It won’t put me off flying balloons. I’ve been doing it since I was a baby.’

Mr Giggle, himself an amateur aeroplane pilot, said the waistcoat he had been wearing was ‘full of holes on the back’ from where he was hit by ‘little gobbets of fire’.

He added that the trio passed the time with games as they waited for rescue. The marketing data manager said: ‘We played I-spy. But after we had “g” for “grass” and “p” for “pylon” we didn’t have many more ideas.

‘The wind picked up and the basket was moving to and fro, but there was nothing we could do. We did get very cold, but you just cope.’

When they were rescued at 11pm, each of them was harnessed to a fireman who abseiled down the pylon.

The incident is being investigated by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

However, Mr Griffiths believes a sudden change in wind direction caused the ‘freak accident’.

He said the £25,000 Cameron N-77 balloon had been destroyed in the accident, but added: ‘I’m just so glad Adam’s all right. It could have been so much worse.’

Despite his ordeal, Mr Giggle is determined to have another flight, joking: ‘I will be going up in a balloon again as I want to experience a normal landing.’

Report by : Daily Mail

Category : World News

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