Sunday 4 December 2016

Lucky escape for pilot of giant pig-shaped hot air balloon after it crashes into tree and catches fire

Published 03/07/2015 | 07:26

The Bank of American Fork piggy bank balloon crash lands near Utah Valley Regional Medical Center during America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest on Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Provo, Utah. (Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald via AP)
The Bank of American Fork piggy bank balloon crash lands near Utah Valley Regional Medical Center during America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest on Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Provo, Utah. (Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald via AP)
The Bank of American Fork piggy bank balloon flies through the air before crash landing near Utah Valley Regional Medical Center during America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest on Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Provo, Utah. (Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald via AP)
The Bank of American Fork piggy bank balloon crash lands near Utah Valley Regional Medical Center during America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest on Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Provo, Utah. (Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald via AP)
The Bank of American Fork piggy bank balloon lies on the ground after crash landing near Utah Valley Regional Medical Center during America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest on Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Provo, Utah. (Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald via AP)

The pilot of a pig-shaped hot-air balloon had a lucky escape when it crashed into a tree and caught fire at a festival in Utah.

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Erwin Oertli suffered only minor burns to his face. He was treated at the scene and released.

The balloons were rising at a field near central Provo when the top of the pig entry crashed into the basket of a cowboy balloon. The collision ripped a hole in the nylon fabric of the pig balloon, and a piece of plastic caught fire as it descended.

The fire was not extensive, said Christopher Liechty, a spokesman for Bank of American Fork, which sponsored the balloon known as Seymour, its piggy bank mascot.

The Bank of American Fork piggy bank balloon flies through the air before crash landing near Utah Valley Regional Medical Center during America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest on Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Provo, Utah. (Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald via AP)
The Bank of American Fork piggy bank balloon flies through the air before crash landing near Utah Valley Regional Medical Center during America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest on Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Provo, Utah. (Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald via AP)

Mr Oertli's burns came from melted plastic that dripped on to his face.

"What saved my bacon was that the head of the pig held a lot of hot air and helped the balloon to descend at a safer rate," he said.

The Bank of American Fork piggy bank balloon lies on the ground after crash landing near Utah Valley Regional Medical Center during America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest on Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Provo, Utah. (Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald via AP)
The Bank of American Fork piggy bank balloon lies on the ground after crash landing near Utah Valley Regional Medical Center during America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest on Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Provo, Utah. (Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald via AP)

Kevin Auernig, 37, of Provo, saw the accident at America's Freedom Festival Balloon Fest and watched the pig balloon come down fast and land in a fenced construction zone. He joked that parts of the balloon got stuck on a tree and looked like strips of bacon.

People jumped over the fence to try to help the pilot, who was bleeding and appeared shaken, Mr Auernig said.

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