A “beautiful” experience turned into a terrifying ordeal this week when three hot-air balloons crashed in a Wyoming field, sending 12 people to the hospital.
The sightseeing balloons, which had a total of 36 passengers, crashed early Monday into a field near the foothills of the Teton Village Resort Community, Jackson Hole Fire Chief Brady Hansen told CNN.
Eleven of the victims were taken to local hospitals after the incident, while another was rushed to a trauma center in Idaho Falls, Hansen said.
The crash, which will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Agency, occurred after the pilots got an unexpected shift in wind that forced the balloons to the ground, Hansen said.
One of the passengers, Clinton Phillips, of Texas, said he was enjoying the ride with his wife and three children and about 15 other people when things suddenly went wrong, he told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
“I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was, and then we were in hell a few minutes later,” Phillips told the newspaper. “It was crazy.”
Phillips said his two daughters were “pretty scratched up,” while his son may have had a concussion and his wife possibly broke a rib during the crash.
“It was a pretty traumatic experience,” Phillips told the newspaper.
Despite early witness reports, the balloons did not collide, but crashed separately in the same field, the Teton County Sheriff’s Office said.
In all, more than 16 people were hurt, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports.
Three of the victims taken to local hospitals were admitted in good condition, while seven others were treated and released later Monday. The majority of the injuries were to wrists, shoulders and ankles, the newspaper reports.
A passenger in another balloon, 12-year-old Robert Krayevski, said he and his family crashed into a fence during the tumultuous ride.
“Our captain fell off while we were in it,” Krayevski said. “We bounced and went up back in the air by ourselves. The captain was yelling to pull the red ropes. We tipped over, and we had to get out because of possible fire. I got out, and people were laying on the ground hurt.”
NTSB spokesperson Terry Williams said the weather during Monday’s crashes will be part of its investigation, but added it’s too soon to determine definitively if and how it factored into the incident.
It’s unclear how fast the balloons, which were operated by the Wyoming Balloon Company, were traveling at the time, but winds of 9 mph were recorded in Jackson Hole shortly after the incident.
With Post wires