One of Two Colo. Hot Air Balloon Crashes Sparks Fire

June 10, 2013

June 08--A hot air balloon carrying 11 people crashed early today in a Boulder County open space bird nesting habitat, sending two women to the hospital with possible neck and back injuries.

The Boulder county mishap was one of two hot air balloon crashes reported on the west side of the metro area in a short period of time. A second crash was reported early in the morning in Arvada, injuring one.

The Boulder County Sheriff's Office reported that at 8:54 a.m., Boulder Parks and Open Space Rangers and Rocky Mountain Fire Authority responded to reports of a hot air balloon crash at the Kelsall Open Space, located about 1 mile southeast of Highway 93 and Highway 128.

The pilot of the balloon, from Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Rides, was trying to land the hot air balloon when the crash occurred. The balloon's basket struck the ground hard, stripping the wild grasses from the ground. The basket was dragged along the ground roughly 50 yards before coming to a stop.

Sheriff's officials said the weather was calm and warm early this morning, but gusty winds had kicked up, at the time of the crash. But according to one witness, the weather had already turned windy before the departure of the hot air balloon.

The two women who were reportedly hurt were taken to Boulder Community Hospital for treatment of possible neck and back injuries.

The owner of the company, who was also piloting the balloon, was ticketed by City of Boulder Parks and Open Space Rangers for landing in the open space. The driver of the hot air balloon recovery vehicle was also ticketed for driving into the area to recover the balloon. The area is a habitat conservation area with ground nesting birds.

In the Arvada case, a balloon struck a power line and then crashed on Highway 72 about quarter mile east of Colorado 93, according to Arvada fire spokesman Scott Pribble.

The balloon was dragged about 100 yards before coming to a stop, he said.

Pribble reported that there was a small brush fire near the balloon accident, but that it was not linked to the crash, and was put out quickly. The identity of the owner of the Arvada balloon was not immediately disclosed.

The Federal Aviation Administration is conducting an investigation.

Copyright 2013 - Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

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