August 25, 2007
A hot air balloon caught fire over western Canada, forcing screaming passengers to leap to the ground, some with their clothes in flames, witnesses said. Two people are dead and at least 11 people were injured.
Police said there were 12 passengers and a pilot on board when the balloon crashed Friday evening in a recreational vehicle park in Surrey, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver.
All but two of the people on the balloon were located and taken to area hospitals with serious but non-life threatening injuries, police said, adding those numbers had still not been confirmed. Rescue workers said Saturday 12 people had been taken to the hospital.
Witnesses said the balloon caught fire shortly after takeoff and passengers jumped out almost immediately. It then exploded in a fireball and shot up into the air, they said. Shortly after, the burning balloon plunged to ground, leaving a tail of thick black smoke in its wake.
"The thing went up about 400 feet in the air at which point it melted enough of the balloon; it collapsed," said Don Randall, a resident of the trailer park who took pictures of the scene. "The basket was basically a fireball. It just dropped like a stone," he added.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known. Weather
conditions were clear at the time of the sunset flight.
"People were screaming and trying to get out," Frank Hersey said Friday night near a grassy field where several of the injured were being attended to by ambulance crews.
Witnesses also said propane tanks from the balloon shot off and landed on the Hazelmere RV park below, setting fire to three trailers and several vehicles. No one was reported hurt in those blazes.
The balloon passengers suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to hospitals in the nearby Vancouver area,
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Roger Morrow said in a statement.
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