Hot air balloon hits power lines during Michigan Challenge Balloonfest

A hot air balloon pilot survives explosion after crashing into power line

June 25, 2018, 9:08 AM

A hot air balloon pilot will live to fly another day after surviving a terrifying crash.

At about 8 a.m. Sunday during the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest in Howell, Michigan, the hot air balloon, flying over Thompson Lake, struck power lines, causing a fiery explosion, according to event organizers and ABC Detroit affiliate WXYZ-TV.

The pilot, flying solo, escaped uninjured, the completion director said in a statement, which did not identify the pilot.

Dave Park, who said he was bass fishing on the lake at the time, told WXYZ how he saw the incident unfold. Park was taking pictures of the picturesque sky decorated with colorful balloons when one balloon began to descend from the sky, collided with overhanging power lines and erupted into flames, he said.

“His basket and balloon were on fire,” Park told WXYZ.

Sparking wires dangled overhead and charred pieces of balloon littered the shore, he said.

Another bystander, Dave Dilworth, told WXYZ he witnessed the accident from the shore.

“He was kind of flailing away and yelling and that’s when he broke free,” Dilworth said of the pilot who was still with the balloon as it became engulfed by the flames.

“He hit the water 20 to 30 yards from the shore and the guy who was fishing was coming from the other way and I was on 911 and I guess he was on 911, too,” Dilworth said.

Park and another fisherman were able to rescue the pilot and get him to safety unscathed, WXYZ reported.

There were no injuries and the balloon was recovered shortly after the incident, the completion director said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.