Balloon crash an 'absolute nightmare' - victim

2016-10-25 19:12
(Supplied to News24)

(Supplied to News24)

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Johannesburg - A hot air balloon ride which was supposed to have been a lovely day out turned into an "absolute nightmare" for a 70-year-old woman who survived a crash-landing on Tuesday.

Olivia Denny was part of a group of 14 in the balloon, the trip was a 70th birthday present from her son.

"I am just absolutely thankful that we are all alive. It was supposed to be one beautiful day out, but it turned into an absolute nightmare," Denny said.

The balloon crashed into a tree near the Buffelspoort dam, North West, injuring two adults and a child.

A British tourist was in critical condition with internal injuries. A 4-year-old girl was airlifted to a Johannesburg hospital, also in critical condition. The girl's mother was taken to a Brits hospital with suspected spinal and internal injuries, Loanne Louw of Hartbeespoort EMS told News24.

Denny said the landing wasn't what the pilot expected.

"We wanted to land in an open veld, but when we were about to land, the wind just swept us away," she said.

She said it felt like driving backwards in a car at 40km/h.

"The wind dragged us through the bushes and rocks before we eventually landed between two trees. We had to hold on for dear life."

Denny said the two trees were their saving grace. She said the basket was turned upside down and one woman fell out.

A ride to remember

After the crash, it was difficult to get help because no one knew where they were.

"One of the passengers had to walk to one of the farmers' houses to ask for help, while we helped the injured," she said.

A helicopter eventually hovered over the crash site and alerted paramedics to their location.

The balloon's owner earlier said unexpectedly strong winds were to blame.

"At first glance, the wind seems to be the reason it happened," Bill Harrop, owner of Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safaris, told News24.

Harrop said the day's aviation weather forecast showed a five-knot wind near the surface.

Conditions were good when the balloon took off early on Tuesday morning, but the wind picked up and became six times stronger.

"Looking at the weather forecast, any pilot in the world would have taken off. It was good," he said.

"The wind then picked up to 29-30 knots and took them in a difficult direction. Once the wind picks up, you have to find the safest landing location, and it ended up with a fast landing. It was very well executed, with a very skilled and experienced pilot. Just before they stopped the drag, they hit some rocks and that caused the problem," Harrop said.

Denny said it would be a ride to remember.


Read more on:    mahikeng  |  air crashes  |  aviation

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