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Pilot dies in fall from hot air balloon, passengers carried across state line


By Camille Furst

The pilot of a hot air balloon died after becoming entangled under its basket and falling to the ground in Bradford, Vermont, Thursday afternoon, according to state police.

Vermont State Police (VSP) identified the pilot as 72-year-old Brian Boland of Post Mills, Vermont.

The hot air balloon took off late Thursday afternoon with four passengers and Boland on board. “Some time later,” it descended and touched the ground, VSP said. The basket tipped over and one of the four passengers fell out, but wasn’t injured.

While the basket tipped, Boland “became entangled in gear affixed to the balloon as it re-ascended,” police said. Boland became “entrapped underneath the basket, where he eventually fell to the ground from a height.”

Boland landed in a field and was pronounced dead on scene, VSP said.

The balloon continued to travel northward for “about 1.5 miles,” according to police, before crossing state lines and becoming entangled in trees in Piermont, New Hampshire.

The remaining three passengers were able to climb down safely, and none were injured, VSP said.

Boland worked with the Silver Maple Lodge and Cottages in Fairlee, Vermont, to provide hot air balloon excursions for visitors, according to the inn’s vacation package website.

Boland was “one of the most experienced pilots in the world” who “has set numerous world records, won national championships and has flown all over the world,” the website said.

Robert Willbanks, a balloon pilot who said he had known Boland since the 1970s, wrote a Facebook post on Thursday calling him “one of the most creative and talented aeronauts in our sport.”

“We will miss Brian but we mourn not our aeronaut friends, for we have all risen to kiss the sunrise and floated on the breath of God,” Willbanks wrote. “Peace to all of Brian’s family and friends. Fine wind and gentle landing my friend.”

The NTSB and FAA are investigating the crash.

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