Victim ID'd in hot air balloon crash

WEST VINCENT TWP., Pa. - September 9, 2008 It happened around 7:00 p.m. Sunday in the 1800 block of Kimberton Road in West Vincent Township, Chester County.

That's where a balloon, piloted by 67-year-old Earl MacPherson went down.

"The flames were towering maybe 15 feet from the top of the basket," said witness Barbara Berry.

Barbara says passengers were jumping from the balloon even before it landed.

When it finally came to a stop, her home quickly became a medical outpost.

"The man who was most seriously burned was burned on his head and back as well," Berry said. "We had him lying down and he was conscious, and they were all seemingly calm."

The passengers survived with burns ranging from minor to serious.

FAA and NTSB officials are still investigating the scene and they say there are several factors they're looking at to determine what happened.

"The environment he was flying in, also looking at the balloon that was involved in the accident. It goes to the maintenance records, how it was built, what could have caused it. We look into every detail," said Shawn Etcher of the NTSB.

Action News spoke with other balloonists who knew MacPherson.

They say the 67 year old has been ballooning for more than 20 years without incident, and they'd be amazed if the crash was the result of pilot error.

"Earl has flown hot air balloons, single-engine planes, multi-engine planes for many years and, with my knowledge, is one of the most meticulous pilots that I know of," said balloonist Stan Hess.

Officials tell Action News that MacPherson was a licensed hot air balloon pilot for more than 20 years, with more than 1,400 hours in the air.

The balloon company has been identified as Air Ventures Hot Air Ballooning with a main office in Paoli.

All of the survivors are expected to recover.

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