Hot Air Balloon Emergency Landing Shocks Vermont Highway Commuters

Hot Air Balloon Emergency Landing Shocks Vermont Highway Commuters

Com­muters along one of Ver­mon­t’s busiest high­ways got an unex­pect­ed scare last night when a hot air bal­loon sud­den­ly lost alti­tude and was forced to make an emer­gency land­ing direct­ly onto the busy interstate.

Accord­ing to offi­cials, vet­er­an pilot Chris Rit­land and four pas­sen­gers had been enjoy­ing a leisure­ly sun­set bal­loon ride over Hart­ford on Wednes­day evening. But with­out warn­ing, their pic­turesque jour­ney took a ter­ri­fy­ing turn as the bal­loon began los­ing height at an alarm­ing rate.

With dark­ness falling and no oth­er safe land­ing options, Rit­land was left with no choice but to attempt putting the fal­ter­ing air­craft down on Inter­state 91, a major com­muter route through the area. Dash­cam footage cap­tured the tense moments as the bal­loon low­ered toward the high­way medi­an, nar­row­ly avoid­ing col­li­sions with speed­ing cars.

Wit­ness­es described scenes of chaos as emer­gency vehi­cles rushed to the area with lights and sirens wail­ing. Despite the per­ilous sit­u­a­tion, Rit­land, a bal­loon oper­a­tor with over 3 decades of expe­ri­ence, main­tained com­po­sure to steer the fail­ing bal­loon to a bumpy but suc­cess­ful emer­gency land­ing with­out injury.

An inves­ti­ga­tion is ongo­ing into what fac­tors caused the sud­den mechan­i­cal fail­ure thou­sands of feet in the air. Avi­a­tion experts are puz­zled how the pilot man­aged to wres­tle con­trol of the plum­met­ing bas­ket in strong wind con­di­tions dur­ing dusk. Police are also ana­lyz­ing dash­cam videos that cap­tured the dra­mat­ic descent and heart-stop­ping high­way touchdown.

With his quick think­ing and mas­tery of bal­loon pilot­ing, Rit­land undoubt­ed­ly saved not only the lives of his pas­sen­gers but also pre­vent­ed a cat­a­stroph­ic acci­dent on one of Ver­mon­t’s busiest road­ways. Local res­i­dents are prais­ing his hero­ism and exem­plary han­dling of an avi­a­tion emer­gency that could have eas­i­ly end­ed in tragedy.

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