1 dead in hot air balloon crash

WEST VINCENT, Pa. - September 7, 2008 Authorities say the hot air balloon had to make an emergency landing in a field on the 1800 block of Kimbertown Road just after 6:00 p.m., nearly an hour before it was supposed to touch down.

"We're being told the balloon landed with no problem and then there was some type of malfunction and then it ignited and the basket became engulfed," Michael Swinginger of the West Vincent Police said.

The pilot died on scene, 7 others in the balloon suffered injuries and had to be taken to local hospitals including Temple Hospital, Crozer-Chester, and Phoenixville Hospital. Hospital officials said one that was taken to Chester Crozier Medical Center was in guarded condition and two were listed as stable. Two others were treated in Phoenixville and released.

At least 5 went to area burn units.

"It's sad, I just don't know what kind of injuries there are, but it is sad," Mary Lou Whitcomb of West Vincent Township said.

Whitcomb lives down the road from the crash site.

She suspects she may have seen the balloon just seconds before going down which gives her an eerie feeling.

The balloon is operated by Air Ventures out of Chester Springs.

It's unclear why the pilot had to make an emergency landing and what went wrong when it hit the ground.

One volunteer pilot at the scene told Action News off camera weather conditions were perfect. He wouldn't speculate on what happened. The FAA is now trying to figure it out.

According to the NTSB, there have been four hot air balloon crashes this year in the United States; this one was the first fatal.

There were 15 crashes in 2007.


Some information used in this report taken from AP.

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