TETON VILLAGE, Wyo. — Three hot air balloons owned by the same company crashed Monday morning near Teton Village, Wyoming, injuring more than one dozen people.
Initial reports indicated weather could be a factor in the near simultaneous crashes, but the incident remains under investigation by both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was, and then we were in hell a few minutes later. It was crazy,” Texas resident Clinton Phillips, who was riding in one of the balloons with about 20 people, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
“We were desperately trying not to fall out. It was lifting us up and slamming us back down again,” Phillips added.
A second balloon carrying a family was reportedly dragged across a field before crashing into a fence, the newspaper reported.
Robert Krayevski, 12, told the News & Guide that the captain of his vessel “fell off while we were in it.”
“We bounced and went back up 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,” Krayevski told the newspaper.
According to The Associated Press, at least one victim was flown to an Idaho Falls hospital. Local authorities confirmed to The New York Times that “multiple victims” were transported to an area hospital for treatment, but the exact number of injuries sustained has not been released.
Andrew Breffeilh – president of Wyoming Balloon Company, the tour company that owns the balloons – told the Times that the three vessels were carrying a total of 38 passengers combined and that all three balloons made “high-wind landings” in response to a sudden wind gust.
Breffeilh also told the Times that his company had never had a crash in its 31-year history.
In a statement, Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said the total crash site encompassed about one-third of a mile.
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