Hot-air balloon safely landed on highway median with four passengers aboard in Vermont


A deft hot air balloonist landed his craft along with the four passengers aboard in the median of U.S. Interstate 91 in Vermont this week.

On Wednesday, operator Chris Ritland with Quechee Balloon Rides was taking the four passengers on a sunset balloon flight that left the Quechee Green Park in White River Junction, Vermont at around 6 p.m., the company told the local daily Valley News newspaper Thursday.

When the winds shifted, however, the balloon was no longer able to land in its planned location. 

“We were dropping pretty quickly and burning and burning (propane) fuel and weren’t going anywhere. The wind just wasn’t there,” one of the four passengers, who did not provide a name, told the Valley News.

Mr. Ritland then reached out to authorities to coordinate a place to land.

“We had a beautiful balloon flight on Wednesday evening that concluded with a common landing but in an uncommon and unplanned location. The pilot-in-command of the aircraft made a precautionary decision as sunset was nearing to land safely rather than taking unnecessary risk,” Quechee Balloon Rides said in a statement to the Valley News.

The balloon hovered about 30 feet above the highway for at least 20 minutes as traffic was kept shut down, the nearby Hartford Fire Department told the Associated Press.

Both officials and passengers credited Mr. Ritland.

Mr. Ritland “did a good job of landing the balloon safely in the median and avoiding any issues,” HFD told the AP. 

The unnamed passenger was more effusive, telling the Valley News that “Chris did amazing in the moment. He stayed calm in the moment. Everything you were supposed to do, he did.”

After the craft touched terra firma, traffic slowly began to ease up.

“Traffic remained flowing, restricted to one lane for approximately 20-25 minutes while the balloon was deflated and packed away for transport. No injuries were reported,” HFD said as quoted by People magazine.


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