Three people are missing presumed dead after a hot-air balloon ride went horribly wrong. The balloon crashed into a power-line, burst into flames and was quickly gone.
The accident happened during the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival in Virginia, USA, which has now been cancelled The balloon was one of three about to land when tragedy struck; the two others were brought down safely but at time of writing there is little left of the burning balloon and no sign of the three people on board. Eyewitnesses report the balloon gained height after catching fire and that two people jumped to escape the blaze. The gondola or basket of the balloon caught fire, separated from the ascending burning balloon, and began to fall. Police are investigating the tragedy and the search for bodies and wreckage continues. Hot air ballooning has a reportedly good safety track record although accidents have happened previously. In the UK a hot-air balloon ride is readily available through many companies. Virgin offers deals as gift ideas for a celebration treat. Flights tend to take place in the early morning, late afternoon or early evening to avoid certain potential problems. They say "During the day, the sun heats the ground which in turn heats the air above causing thermals or columns of rising air. These thermals cause updrafts and downdrafts which affect a pilot’s ability to safely control the altitude of a hot air balloon. Lower temperatures in late October mean these conditions are not as common which allows day flights to take place." Most people would imagine that safety at ballooning events is strictly controlled but you have to wonder if that is the case. In October 2013, during an event in New Mexico, a balloon was blown off course and hit a power line. Two passengers were severely burned and fell 40 feet to the ground. According to CNN that was not the first incident during this 2013 balloon fiesta. "On Saturday, a balloon hit a power pole. On Sunday, a balloon hit power lines, KRQE reported. But in those cases, both balloons were able to make safe landings." But that last point is not really reassuring. In February 2013 three Britons were killed along with 16 other tourists in a horror balloon crash in Egypt, reportedly thought to be the biggest of its kind in history. Safety standards may vary from country to country, and company to company, but overall flying in a balloon may be thrilling but could prove deadly. To the song "Up, up and away, in my beautiful balloon" this writer has to say thanks, but no thanks.