Hot-air balloon crashes in gator-infested waters

Hot-air balloon crashes in gator-infested waters

A hot-air balloon with 17 people on board crash-landed in an alligator-infested retention pond near Disney World in Orlando. No one was seriously hurt. 

Orlando Balloon Rides owner Keith Fears said the pilot was preparing for a routine landing Monday when a sudden wind shift forced him to land in the retention pond to avoid power lines. The basket remained upright when it landed and drifted toward a bank before tipping over.

Fears said the boy swallowed some water and was treated at the scene as a precaution. He lauded the efforts of  pilot Russ Lucas, has more than 2,000 hours of balloon flight experience.

"He did what he needed to do to avoid something far worse and make sure everyone stayed safe," Fears said. "While we understand this unusual and may even be scary, we think our pilot absolutely made the right decision."

Fears said he and Lucas were cooperating with FAA and National Safety Transportation Board investigations.

Fears acknowledged the trip was not the "fantastic experience" the passengers were looking for and said his company was "committed to making things right."

Passenger Sebastian Westerby told WFTV-TV he and his girlfriend were taking one last excursion before returning to Denmark.

"It was adrenaline. It was pumping. It was scary," he said. "Now we're kind of making fun of it, but it was serious. It was lucky that no one got hurt."

It took a crew about an hour to extricate the balloon from the pond, which  contained multiple alligators, WFTV reported.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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