A veteran hot-air balloon pilot in Arizona is being heralded for averting disaster when the balloon he was piloting unexpectedly took flight and caught fire.
The incident happened Saturday night during the Carefree-Cave Creek Balloon Festival in Carefree, Arizona as the pilot, Wayne Bond, was preparing to fly a specially shaped balloon known as “Spider Pig,” local affiliate ABC15 reports.
Bond, 71, was on the ground in the balloon’s basket when one of the tethers holding the balloon down snapped, and Bond suddenly found himself, and the balloon, unexpectedly in flight.
“It sounded like a rifle shot,” he said of the tether’s snapping.
The balloon caught fire while in air, posing a potential threat to the festival’s crowds gathered below.
Bond, a veteran of nearly 8,000 flights, made a quick decision to fly the balloon away from the onlookers, and landed it safely about half a mile away.
Neither Bond nor any onlookers on the ground were injured in the incident.
“I elected to fly away rather than to hurt anybody in the crowd,” Bond told ABC15.
The pilot said the accident was likely caused by windy weather that snapped the tether.
Luckily for Bond, and the onlookers on the ground, in the heat of the moment he was able to recall an incident 20 years ago in which he was the bystander watching as the tether on another pilot’s balloon broke.
“I heard this once before, years ago,” he said. “So the second it happened I pretty well knew what was happening.”