UPDATE: Hot air balloon crashes near Vernon

No major injuries in Armstrong incident

UPDATE: 5:10 p.m.

The Transportation Safety Board says it will investigate after a hot air balloon taking part in the winter carnival in Vernon, B.C., crashed on Friday.

Police say a wind draft may have caused the balloon to strike a rock face, then collide with power lines near the highway south of Armstrong.

———

A hot air balloon came in contact with a power line Friday morning.

A pilot, who flies commercially in Kelowna, hit a line near Armstrong while flying in the North Okanagan Hot Air Balloon Festival (a Vernon Winter Carnival event).

“He hit a power pole and the envelope (balloon) is destroyed but everyone is fine,” said Deb White, Carnival chairperson.

“Just a fluke accident.”

In fact, the pilot isn’t deterred from flying again,

“He does have another one (balloon) and he’s just trying to get the log book so he can go back up again,” said White.

It’s unknown what caused the crash, which took place near the Tolko mill around 10 a.m.

Vernon RCMP responded to reports of the collision but said that initial stages of the investigation show that the balloon may have encountered an updraft from wind that forced the balloon to strike a rock face of a hill just adjacent to the highway, causing it to then collide with the power lines.

“Officers have made contact with the pilot and the six passengers on board the board at the time of the incident,” said Cst. Kelly Brett. “No injuries have been reported to the RCMP, and no obvious signs of damage to the power lines, however BC hydro has been notified.”

The investigation has now been turned over to the Transportation Safety Board.

Evan Erickson 27, was not involved in the incident but was one of the pilots flying over Vernon Friday morning.

“It’s very rare but power lines are the number one balloon danger and they’re harder to see in winter,” said Erickson, who has been flying for three years.

“You can be very precise with a balloon if the winds aren’t doing crazy things.”

It’s the first time White can remember a crash in the 28-year history of the festival.

In fact, this year’s festival got off to a great start for the pilots and crew as they raced to see how far they could fly Friday morning, leaving an empty lot across from Home Depot and making it to Armstrong.

“They said on the positive side, speaking with one of the runners…this is one of the best runs they’ve ever had,” said White.

See: Skies clear in Vernon

The North Okanagan Hot Air Balloon Festival is in its 28th year.

The balloons are scheduled for a second flight Friday, two on Saturday and one more on Sunday – all weather dependent.


@VernonNews
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com

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