N.H. Man Injured in Hot Air Balloon Blast in Maine

LEWISTON, Maine --

A New Hampshire man was hospitalized after a hot air balloon explosion in Maine over the weekend.

Andre Boucher, of Derry, was piloting the balloon and preparing for takeoff when the accident occurred Saturday night at the Great Falls Balloon Festival.

Cellphone video shows puffs of white vapor -- apparently propane -- before a flash of fire hits Boucher and some of the seven other people in the basket.

Officials with the festival said the explosion happened just after Boucher changed a gas line, and the blast of fire came from a buildup of propane.

"It's probably going to come down to the pilot made a short little mental lapse," said festival official Josh Shea.

Officials said Boucher suffered the worst injuries from the explosion, suffering second-degree burns to his face, head, neck and arms. Three others suffered burns and were taken to a local hospital.

This is not the first time Boucher's balloons have had propane problems. In August 2010, a large barn on his property in Derry burned to the ground. Fire officials said he was in the process of filling propane tanks.

Saturday's incident remains under investigation by state and federal officials. Festival organizers said it shouldn't deter people from getting into a balloon, but they should be aware that there are risks.

"Ballooning is a sport," Shea said. "Sometimes we forget it because of how pretty they are, and it seems so calm and peaceful, but there is some inherent danger to it."

The Federal Aviation Administration said it is investigating Saturday's explosion as an "incident" and not an "accident" because the balloon had not yet left the ground.

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