Skip to comments.Hot air balloon catches fire in Canada (2 dead, 11 injured)
Posted on 08/25/2007 10:03:52 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
VANCOUVER, British Columbia - A hot air balloon caught fire over western Canada, forcing screaming passengers to leap to the ground, some with their clothes in flames, witnesses said. Two people died and 11 were seriously injured, police said Saturday.
There were 12 passengers and a pilot on board when the balloon crashed Friday evening in a recreational vehicle park in Surrey, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver, police and witnesses said.
All but two of the people on the balloon were initially located and taken to area hospitals with serious but non-life threatening injuries, police said. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Roger Morrow told Canadian television Saturday the two dead were the ones who were initially missing but did not give any further details.
Witnesses said the balloon caught fire shortly after takeoff and passengers jumped out almost immediately. It then exploded in a fireball and shot up into the air, they said. Shortly after, the burning balloon plunged to ground, leaving a tail of thick black smoke in its wake.
"The thing went up about 400 feet in the air at which point it melted enough of the balloon it collapsed," said Don Randall, a resident of the trailer park who took pictures of the scene. "The basket was basically a fireball. It just dropped like a stone," he added.
"I'm just thinking, 'Oh geez, I hope there's nobody in that thing. It's basically a burning death up there,'" he said.
Smoke could be seen billowing from the crash site from miles away.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known. Weather conditions were clear at the time of the sunset flight.
"People were screaming and trying to get out," Frank Hersey said Friday night near a grassy field where several of the injured were being attended to by ambulance crews.
Perry Kendall said he saw what looked like something out of a movie.
"It was horrifying," said a shaken Kendall. "Just looking at people screaming and jumping out of there. Some of them, I think, had fire on their clothes. It was just awful."
Witnesses also said propane tanks from the balloon shot off and landed on the Hazelmere RV park below, setting fire to three trailers and several vehicles. No one was reported hurt in those blazes.
Betty Nicholson, a spokeswoman for the Ambulances services, said they took 12 people to a hospital and that three had serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
Nicholson said the more seriously injured have burns and internal bleeding. She was told most of them jumped out before the balloon was engulfed in flames.
Randall said at least two vehicles were damaged along with the RVs. He said he ran to his RV and grabbed a small fire extinguisher, but it proved of little use.
The hot-air balloon, which CTV reported was operated by Fantasy Balloons Charters based in Langley, British Columbia, was one of several balloons in flight at the time.
Company spokesman John K. George said he does not know why the balloon caught fire shortly after takeoff.
"The company deeply regrets this evening's incident and all injuries associated with it (and) inconvenience to those people being displaced," George said.
The Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
A similar incident occurred earlier this month in the central Canadian province of Manitoba, Manitoba, where 12 people were injured.
A hot air balloon's basket bursts into flames shortly after takeoff when it was about 25 feet off the ground in Surrey British Colombia Canada Friday evening Aug. 24, 2007. Witnesses said passengers screamed and jumped to the ground. The balloon reportedly took off from a grassy field with 12 passengers. The balloon crashed in a trailer park and campground , injuring as many as 11 people, police and local reports said. Two additional people were unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Don Randall) Mandatory Credit: Don Randall
Flames consume motor homes at the Hazelmere trailer park after a hot air balloon whose basket was engulfed in flames crashed into it shortly after takeoff in Surrey British Colombia Canada Friday evening Aug. 24, 2007. Witnesses said passengers screamed and jumped to the ground according to witnesses. The balloon reportedly took off from a grassy field with 12 passengers. The balloon crashed in the trailer park and campground , injuring as many as 11 people, police and local reports said. Two additional people were unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Don Randall) Mandatory Credit: Don Randall
A hot air balloon's basket is engulfed in flames shortly after takeoff when it was about 25 feet off the ground in Surrey British Colombia Canada Friday evening Aug. 24, 2007. Witnesses said passengers screamed and jumped to the ground. The balloon reportedly took off from a grassy field with 12 passengers. The balloon crashed in a trailer park and campground , injuring as many as 11 people, police and local reports said. Two additional people were unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Don Randall) Mandatory Credit: Don Randall
Unfortunately the heat from the fire would cause the balloon to rise uncontrollably at first.
Yikes...I thought this was a thread about Ted Kennedy...darn it.
going up in a lawn chair tied to helium balloons is probably safer
Is this because the passenger basket is made of woven reeds or “natural” material? Shouldn’t the passenger basket be made of aluminum or some other non flamable material?
No ballooning for me without a parachute.
Oh the humanity....
I have seen these things at fairs and other social events. You couldn’t pay me to get into one.
Doesnt mean that I don’t feel for the victims. What a scary thing to have happen.
More likely the weight of eleven people jumping out lightened the balloon. Remove half a ton of weight and the balloon is going up, like it or not.
Not necessarily. A balloon hoods its altitude because of a delicate balance between heat-induced life and the weight of its payload, a balance delicately maintained by the pilot. In an accident like this, the firs person to jump out of the basket causes the balloon to rocket upward because of the reduced weight. If the balloon is on fire, the worst case, the rest of the passengers will now find they are too high to jump.
In a balloon accident, if trouble near the ground causes panic causes someone to jump, that person can save himself at the cost of all other lives on the balloon.
The baskets are made from rattan. When the basket hits or strikes the ground when the trip is over, the basket flex's and gives. You can see and feel it move with your hands and feet as it gives. A rigid structure would break or fracture with the same amount of stress when bouncing on and off the ground in a windy landing.
What a horrible way to die. Prayers for the victims and their families.
“going up in a lawn chair tied to helium balloons is probably safer”
That was so hysterical. Could you please remember the name of the gentleman? I believe he even took a six pack of beer with him.
(Tragically, he committed suicide a few years later. In suicide cases like these, we always ask ourselves why. I never did read if there was a why.)
He sure gave everybody something about which to talk and have a good laugh at the same time...not at him, but about the whole scene. It was unforeseen bravery. He did not foresee what was going to happen.
The lawnchair guy’s name was Larry Walter.
There is a small community of others who are following in his footsteps. Some guy just made a 500 miles flight IIRC.
“I have seen these things at fairs and other social events. You couldnt pay me to get into one. Doesnt mean that I dont feel for the victims. What a scary thing to have happen.”
I also don’t want to see that space of nothing between me and the ground.
I don’t mind flying because I am not in a little basket being held by threads to some bladder object above me.
Yea. Horrible footage on TV too.
When I see something like this, I get a bit freaked out.
Gotta be a leak in the burner unit.
It sounds to me that it started on fire before he took off and he was telling people to get out.
The balloon will rise with the lighter weight, but he was tethered to the ground. Probably to a chase vehicle. From what I have been reading, the tethers holding him to the ground failed and that is why he took off.
My guess is that the tethers burned through.
Basic ballooning safety is that you tie off before inflating or launching. Tie off lines are substantial and very strong. The ones we use are about 2” wide nylon.
I would doubt that. More than likely some sort of leak in the propane lines leading to the burners.
This balloon was a BIG one. We call them cattle cars because they hold so many people.
Thank you so much.
I suppose some malign him because LAX had to divert their aircrafts as he floated over, which added up in dollars and not to mention rescuing him out a sea. But who cares. So much of our money is spent in real dumb stuff. At least this gave us a good laugh for a change and a thumbs up.
He was a special unintended folk hero.
Thank you again.
The Propane tank is located there. Must have had a gas leak or the burner wouldn't throttle down. A terrible mess.
There’s a charming Australian movie called DANNY DECKCHAIR about a guy who takes off from Sydney in his lawnchair and crash-lands in a small town in the outback where he becomes a local mystery man.
“There is a small community of others who are following in his footsteps. Some guy just made a 500 miles flight IIRC.”
In lawn chairs?
500 miles? Oh my gosh...to where?
Anything on the enternet? I would love to read about it.
So Larry Walter’s memory lives on. Glad to hear that.
Sounds like my kind of movie (and it’s on DVD too!)
Thanks for your insight and exp re: balloning! I’m trying to imagine 2” dia nylon lines now - I sail quite a lot, and on a boat 2” would probably be called a hawser. ;>)
Actually, as I typed that I had the propane lines in mind. The lines are far more likely to be the source of a (presumed) leak, as you said.
Anything on the enternet? I would love to read about it. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Walters
Thank you for the link.
Apparently a leak between the tank(s) and the metered orifice which supplies the hot, light air into the mouth of the baloon developed and ignited; the concentrated blue flame directed at the opening of the balloon provides the lifting air and has a flame temperature of around 3,000F while the ignited leaking gas pouring and puddling into the basket has a temperature of roughly 2,200F as can be seen in the photos (reddish-orange).
Because of this temperature difference the concentrated airstream is snuffed and the rising flames from the basket went on to inflame the material of the balloon itself which led to the slipstreaming of the balloon wall as shown in another photo.
Once the basket was aflame, upward motion likely slowed dramatically and the leaping passengers kept it afloat for a bit longer only because they then represented lost ballast and when the point of equilibrium was reached, the whole mess fell like a stone.
Larry Walters story:
I just read your link. Thank you. I see the stories I had read that he had floated over LAX was not true, and he did not land at sea. I kind of feel let down and lied to. But I dont care. He still was very special.
And he did not have a six pack of beer with him. I thought that made a great story, but its another lie.
Oh well. I now have to readjust my thinking after so many years. The story still gives me lots of laughs.
Doesnt mean that I dont feel for the victims.
You couldn't pay me to get into one either. That's why I feel for the victims.
Of the few things I'm afraid of, that's a twofer there: heights and burning.
I'm probably going to have nightmares over this one.
Thank you for the link. I enjoyed reading it. I laughed all over again.
What a tragic lose of life and so young.
OK, but I still think I won’t be doing any hot air ballooning anytime soon.
How about a light weight metal basket with springs and flexible joints? How about parachutes for all passengers?
Well they are 2” wide. Flat, but wide. For tethered (non free flight) operations we have a minimum of 3 tie off points on the basket.
I’ve seen a balloon drag an Expedition sized truck before. People don’t realize the power that a fully inflated balloon can have. Think of a GIANT sail.
I just read on a balloon list that I am on that the Canadian authorities will have 2 years to issue a final report on this incident. So, speculation can be rampant for 2 years on a cause.
On Fox News, they only showed the balloon streamering out of the sky. No mention of how many actually got out of the basket before it left the ground.
No mention of ballooning being the safest form of flight hour per hour.
People have tried other forms of baskets and they keep coming back to Rattan. Rattan is strong, flexible and has incredible longevity. It is very common to have the same basket through several balloon envelopes. The envelope is what wears out faster. Generally, the baskets also have a wooden floor in them so you aren’t just standing on rattan directly. Also, the frames of the baskets are made of aluminum or steel tubing. The rattan is wrapped around the frame. The envelope is attached to the aluminum framing via carabiners or other systems.
Parachutes for passengers: When balloon pilots take up parachutists to jump out of the balloon, it is generally recommended that the pilot of the balloon also has a parachute, but I don’t know of any that have actually had a chute on board when dropping jumpers.
“Of the few things I’m afraid of, that’s a twofer there: heights and burning.”
I’m with you on that one. I steer clear of gasoline trucks and get nevrous on ladders. Tall buildings, donwanna get near the windows.
Dont freak, we’ll worry enough about you for both of us!
Thanks. I think.
My only hot air balloon ride ended badly for me. Three surgeries later, I will never go on one again. They are so beautiful but when you get in trouble, the only way down usually means a hard landing, in the balloon or outside of it. Living in Albuquerque, I've seen so many balloons over the years, and although accidents don't happen that often, when they do, people get hurt pretty badly or they get killed. I was fortunate that I wasn't killed.
Are there any hobby class balloonists who fly helium-filled balloons, or is it too expensive or impractical?
funny Aussie movie
I’m OK if I feel secure. I don’t mind being near windows. When I went to the Grand Canyon, I could stand *near* the edge and be OK. But if what I’m on moves AT ALL, like a ladder or scaffolding, forget it!
I’m not so great on roof tops except when we used to have to shovel off our porch roof. It was only about a 6 foot drop into about a 6 foot pile of soft snow. I could live with that.
He is the one next to my flag balloon.
He comes to events for expenses only. The event needs to pay for his helium, room and board. I think he may get travel expenses too but I'm not sure.
He is a really nice guy. I'll try to find his web site again.
For him to set up, it takes several hours before he can take off.
We had one land right about 30 yeards behind the house 3 or 4 years ago...I know he did NOT want to end up here near the mountains (see the cockatiel pic on my page for a general idea). They prefer to go up and down and stay pretty close to where they left from, I assume; and we're better than 10 miles from Bermuda Dunes airport.
Actually, that is pretty uncommon. It may look like they didn't want to go there, but unless you talk directly to the pilot, you never know. It is more common for someone to call the fire dept and report a crash of a balloon because in their mind, any balloon that isn't landing at an airport is obviously crashing. ;-)
I have a friend that has about 50 trips over the Swiss Alps in a balloon. So, mountain flying does happen, you just need to be well equipped and aware of rotors.
Are there any hobby class balloonists who fly helium-filled balloons, or is it too expensive or impractical?
There were a couple of guys flying gas balloons here in New England. The helium cost was over a thousand dollars per flight (for a two person balloon), and the handling of the balloon was a lot trickier than a hot air balloon. As far as I could tell the gas balloon was a lot less maneuverable than a hot air balloon.
Has the FAA grounded hot air balloons this weekend? There is a local festival today that normally ends with a hot air balloon buck chase on a lake with the pilots and passenger trying to drop a ball into a floating inner tube. I just drove past the festival and not a hot air balloon in sight.
What is your weather like? If it is too windy, balloons won’t fly. Or, the direction could be wrong to get to the lake.