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13 Injured as Hot-Air Balloon Spills Pilot, Passengers

September 28, 1996|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — A hot-air balloon spilled sightseeing passengers as it bounced along a busy highway for miles Friday after its pilot fell out. Thirteen of the 14 people aboard were injured.

The pilot, Jeffrey Sherman, toppled out of the balloon's basket when it struck a concrete wall as he tried to land, said Lyle Alexander of the Federal Aviation Administration.

One passenger grabbed the controls and some of the other passengers jumped out before the balloon veered off, bouncing over power lines and subdivisions before finally coming to a rest when the balloon deflated a few miles away.

Witness Bill Francis told radio station KTAR that he saw the balloon "kind of skipping across" the ground and some passengers falling out along the way.

Victims, who were strewn along the highway for a mile, were taken to hospitals, although authorities said none of their injuries were considered life-threatening.

"I saw a hot-air balloon bouncing around and ran to the field about a moment after the crash," said David Flores, a high school student.

"By the time we got there, police were here. All I saw was crying. They seemed pretty shaken up."

Passenger James Harvey said he and others struggled to hold onto the basket and used a radio to ask for help and instructions.

Jim Morriss, who works for the balloon's owner, Naturally High Balloon Co. of Scottsdale, was on the ground trying to provide instructions on how to control the balloon.

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