ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez reports:
NFL wide receiver Donté Stallworth, who was in a hot air balloon accident last month that left him and his friend with serious injuries after they came in contact with power lines, said the electrical shock was the “longest two or three seconds” of his life.
Stallworth, 32, is a free agent after playing with the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins, among other teams. He and his friend, Soleil Guerrero, 27, were on the serene hot-air balloon ride south of Miami March 16 when the balloon’s basket struck power lines.
“It was very peaceful, quiet, nice day … [we] took a lot of pictures,” Stallworth told ESPN in an exclusive interview.
The flight was uneventful for more than an hour, but things quickly took a turn when the pilot told them they couldn’t land at their expected location.
“I became concerned when I was looking back behind me, and I saw that we were getting really close to the power lines,” Stallworth said. “By the time I realized we were going to hit the power line, it was too late.”
Guerrero said that as soon as the basket hit the power line, she felt electricity “going in through [her] spine.”
Stallworth said, “The shock felt like two or three seconds, but it was the longest two or three seconds of my life.”
Guerrero caught on fire when they hit the power lines.
Stallworth said, “I couldn’t believe this is where it was going to end. I couldn’t move. I was completely paralyzed because of the shock.
“I started to get light-headed, and I remember telling myself, ‘Don’t close your eyes, if you close your eyes you’re going to die.’ I literally thought I was dead.”
After the basket crashed to the ground, both were airlifted to the hospital with second- and third-degree burns.
The two have had an outpouring of well-wishers, with fellow pro football player Tom Brady to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell offering words of support. Goodell had suspended the wide receiver without pay for the 2009 season after Stallworth’s plea deal in connection to his being charged with DUI manslaughter after he killed a pedestrian in Miami Beach in 2005.
Stallworth, who still hopes to play this season despite his free-agent status, says that the near-fatal accident last month has given him a different perspective.
“This situation has made me realize that life is short,” he said.