According to the federal Energy Information Agency, about 18% of U.S. transmission lines are underground power lines. Given the fact that so many transmission lines are above ground, hot air balloon pilots should know to watch out for them.
However, accidents still happen.
A hot air balloon pilot tried landing his vehicle in a hay field Saturday night in New Holland, Pennsylvania. As the basket touched the ground, the top of the balloon wound up falling onto the power lines, according to Sergeant Mark Willwerth of the New Holland Police Department.
“There does not appear to be anything wrong with the balloon, and weather is not believed to be a factor,” he told CNN.
All three people aboard the hot air balloon were injured in the incident, and hospitalized at a local trauma center with severe injuries from an electric shock caused by the power lines. All three victims suffered burns. Passenger Robert Spencer, a 53-year-old from Maryland, was unresponsive, and 48-year-old Melyndia Davis of Maryland went into cardiac arrest. A bystander was able to perform CPR on Davis until emergency crews arrived at the scene. Pilot Robert Spencer, 53, remained conscious.
Hot air ballooning incidents may seem few and far, between but the National Transportation Safety Board has investigated 775 hot air balloon incidents in the United States — 70 of which involved fatalities — since 1964. Between 2002 to 2012, 16 people died while hot air ballooning, reported the NTSB. While experts stress that it’s a safe activity, some of the deadliest hot air ballooning accidents have occurred in recent years.
“People have been flying hot air balloons safely, since 1783 to be exact, long before the Wright Brother’s first successful powered flight in 1903,” air safety expert Carl Holden told USA Today last year.
No one on the ground was injured in the Pennsylvania-incident. The Federal Aviation Administration will be investigating the incident, according to police.