Eleven people were injured – including two seriously – after a hot air balloon crashed Friday morning in Arrowtown. Photo / Included
A photographer aboard a hot air balloon when it crashed in Otago and stopped dramatically in front of a house says it was bad luck that didn’t stop him from flying the plane.
The Sunrise Balloons trip was hit by a gust of wind on Friday morning shortly before landing at Morven Ferry Rd, near Arrowtown.
Photographer Rob Pine was on board the flight and captured the “beautiful” rugged Southern Alps from a bird’s eye view after a good splash of snow.
“After about an hour it was time to land,” he said.
‘Everything in order. Everything went according to plan, ready to land, but when we came in, the wind picked up a bit…’
Pine is an experienced skydiver with 17,000 logged jumps to his credit and knew they were coming in faster than usual.
“I think everyone on board knew that too.”
Pine said the pilot had warned passengers that it would be a fast landing and that they should brace themselves.
There might normally be a little jump when a hot air balloon lands, Pine said, but this “wouldn’t be a clean landing.”
“Suddenly the paddock arrives in front of us. And yes, boom.”
The initial impact was somewhat rough with momentum causing them to hit the ground over and over in a skipping motion, he said.
On one of them, some people were thrown aboard, he said.
He said a deer fence held back the balloon as it loomed over a nearby house.
“That destroyed most of the speed we had and then we came to a stop,” he said.
“The fence definitely saved us from hitting the house.”
Pine said the gust had just caught them as the balloon approached the ground.
“We went up to 7000 feet. There’s always a little bit of wind around, a bit of wind.
“But you know these guys [pilots] are there every day. They do it year in, year out.
“They know exactly what’s going on and that’s exactly why these kinds of incidents are so rare.
“It was really just bad luck that we probably landed a little short or lower than expected.”
Emergency services arrived within minutes, he said.
Two people with serious injuries were flown to Dunedin Hospital, while others with minor injuries were taken by ambulance to Lakes District Hospital.
The two patients at Dunedin Hospital are in stable condition early this afternoon, a spokesman said.
Pine had managed to stay in the basket during the landing and miraculously hold onto his photography gear the entire time.
The rough landing didn’t stop Pine from ballooning.
“I would do it every day if I could,” he said.
“It’s a magical, beautiful, surreal experience.”
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has launched an investigation into an incident and is requesting information from witnesses particularly interested in hearing from those who may have photographed or videoed the flight.