Pilot Dangles from Hot Air Balloon

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A balloon mishap occurred on Thursday, June 7 in Chatsworth, Illinois. The pilot of the balloon dangled over the edge of the basket. While no serious injuries were reported, medical attention was required. The incident occurred at Chatsworth Sesquicentennial Heritage Days, a balloon festival that ran from Thursday, June 8- Saturday, June 10. When the pilot fell from the balloon, two people with no previous balloon piloting experience were left in the basket. A first-hand witness to the balloon mishap recorded the incident on a video. Wayne Germain recorded the incident on his Android phone.

“He was up about 50, 60 feet at that time, and then the balloon descended,” Germain said. “He rolled out, and then the balloon went back up.”

Reportedly, the balloon mishap was caused by a burst of unexpected strong winds. Germain said that prior to this, the winds were calm. ““It was frightening,” Germain said. “Out of nowhere, a gust of wind came —20 mph at least. Twenty seconds later, it was calm again.” Livingston Country Sheriff, Tony Childress, confirmed that the basket tipped and the pilot fell. “Apparently, there was a wind gust that caused one balloon to lift up,” Childress said. Childress said that the pilot was taken to OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington for medical attention. The pilots name has not been released. “It’s our understanding at this point that the injuries were not life-threatening,” Childress said.

“No one was injured other than the individual that fell out of the basket.”

Childress said the incident is still under investigation, but he said that balloons have flown in the area before and he considers it an unusual incident that does not require much scrutiny from his department. “I just don’t think it’s something that we need to create more red tape, so to speak, that’s what we already have,” Childress said. Germain who is a regular hot air balloon enthusiast seconded this opinion, saying, “In my 30 years of watching hot air balloons I’ve never seen a gust of wind come across like that.”

From the video, the pilot can be seen dangling from the basket of the balloon before the balloon slams into the ground.

The balloon eventually landed with two passengers still in the basket. Childress said the balloon “didn’t crash,” but just came to a rest. Germain said, “From the view you can’t see anybody in [the basket], but there were two people still in that balloon. Neither of them knew how to run a hot air balloon.” According to Germain, “People followed it on the ground and told them what to do.” After the incident Germain said that other bystanders told him the two passengers had some “bumps and bruises.”

“Thank God there weren’t any serious injuries,” Germain said. Germain said that the incident changed his views on balloons. “I’ve always wanted to fly in a balloon but couldn’t afford it. Now, I don’t want to go. No, thank you.” After posting the video, Germain said that he has received many requests from people to use the video for training and educational purposes.

He said, “I’m glad I got the opportunity to video it.”

The town mayor, Richard Runyon, commented on the incident. While he was elsewhere at the time, he said, “Luckily they knew enough to go past the power lines and out of town before pulling the rope.” Aside from hot air balloons, the Chatsworth Sesquicentennial Heritage Days featured live music, a car show, bingo, a carnival, Tug-O-War, and fireworks.

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