Strong winds blamed for North West hot air balloon crash landing

2016-10-25 16:13
(Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris)

(Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris)

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Johannesburg - The owner of the hot air balloon which crash landed in North West on Tuesday morning, injuring three people, believes unexpectedly strong winds were to blame.

"I can't comment or speculate any further. At first glance, the wind seems to be the reason it happened," Bill Harrop, owner of Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safaris, told News24.

At least 14 people and the pilot were in the balloon when it was dragged along the ground while trying to land at the Buffelspoort Dam, near Hartbeespoort, shortly after 07:00.

A British tourist was in critical condition after suffering internal injuries, while 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.

The three apparently fell out of the basket when the balloon was dragged along the ground and struck rocks.

Wind six times stronger than forecast

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.

(Supplied to News24)

"We know the wind and we have experienced commercial pilots. We know what to look for in terms of safe conditions, and we have a good reputation for actually cancelling or shortening flights if we're not happy with the conditions."

Ballooning operations would not be affected. The crashed balloon would be taken out of service for inspection and repair. A full investigation would be conducted, but the first priority was with the victims, Harrop said.

Read more on:    mahikeng  |  air crashes  |  aviation

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