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Hot air balloon crashes, hits power lines during Michigan balloon festival

Posted at 1:24 PM, Jun 24, 2018

HOWELL, Mich. — A hot air balloon disaster was narrowly avoided thanks to some luck and a number of people who leaped into action.

It happened just after 8 a.m. on Sunday during the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest flyover. One balloon carrying one man struck power lines over Thompson Lake, but it was the quick actions of strangers that may have saved the pilot's life. 

Dave Park was bass fishing when he looked up and noticed the Balloonfest's early morning flyover. 

"Yeah, I was taking a few pictures," Park said. 

But admiration quickly turned to fear. 

One balloon started coming down. When he hit the wires there was a big fire and an explosion. Sparking wires were dangling and littering the shore with charred pieces of the balloon. 

"His basket and balloon were on fire," Park said. 

And the pilot was still inside. 

Dave Dilworth saw it happen from the shore. 

"He was kind of flailing away yelling and that’s when he broke free," Dilworth said. "He hit the water 20 to 30 yards from the shore and the guy who was fishing was coming from the other way and I was on 911 and I guess he was in 911 too."

Luckily for the pilot, two fishermen came to his rescue. 

"To be honest with you, I thanked the pilot for being alive because I thought when we got over there it wasn’t going to turn out so well but it did," Park said. 

Park brought the pilot to rescue crews waiting at the shore. 

"The other boys hooked onto us and dragged us back to shore we just had the pilot and he was holding onto the balloon," he said. 

In a statement, the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest Director said there were no injuries and the cause of the accident is being investigated by the FAA (Federal Aviation Authorities).