A hot-air balloon pilot died Thursday after falling from a great height in Vermont, leaving multiple passengers behind in the airborne basket.
The fatal accident happened near the border between Vermont and New Hampshire on Thursday afternoon, according to Vermont State Police.
The hot-air balloon took off from Post Mills Airport in Thetford, Vt., and later descended to the ground in a field. The basket tipped upon impact and one passenger tumbled out. The passenger was not injured but was left behind when the balloon started to rise again.
“During this sequence, the pilot became entangled in gear affixed to the balloon as it re-ascended,” police said.
They say the pilot “ended up entrapped underneath the basket, where he eventually fell to the ground from a height.”
The pilot fell into a field where he was later found and pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities did not say how far he fell.
The hot-air balloon continued on its way after the pilot’s death, with all three passengers remaining inside the basket. The balloon drifted a few kilometres north and crossed into New Hampshire, where it ultimately got stuck in some trees.
The passengers climbed down to safety and ultimately escaped the ordeal without injuries.
An autopsy will be conducted to determine the pilot’s exact cause of death.
Police have not released the victim’s name.
The Balloon Federation of America has identified him as Brian Boland, a veteran balloon pilot with several decades of experience. Boland owned the Post Mills Airport and also ran an aviation museum at the site.
The Federal Aviation Board (FAA), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and state officials in Vermont and New Hampshire are investigating the incident.
— With files from The Associated Press
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