Hot air balloon mishap caught on video, tragedy averted at Chatsworth fest


A hot air balloon operator dangles from the balloon’s basket Wednesday evening in Chatsworth. He escaped without serious injury. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Germain.)


By Howard Packowitz

CHATSWORTH – A Pontiac man videotaping hot air balloons at Chatsworth’s Sesquicentennial Celebration feared he was recording a tragedy.

A sudden wind gust Thursday evening caused a collision between two hot air balloons as one of them was taking off.

Recording on his Android phone, retired Pontiac Prison administrator Wayne Germain said he saw a balloon operator dangling from the basket.

PODCAST: Listen to Scott and Patti’s interview with Germain on WJBC.

“He was up about 50, 60 feet at that time, and then the balloon descended, and then he rolled out, and then the balloon went back up,” Germain recalled.

“From the view, you can’t see anybody in (the basket), but there were two people still in that balloon. Neither of them knew how to run a hot air balloon,” Germain also said.

The two remaining occupants escaped after the balloon descended again behind some trees.

Livingston County Sheriff Tony Childress said the pilot was taken to OSF Saint Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington. His injuries were not considered serious.

Childress said balloons have flown in the area before and he’s comfortablde that this was a highly unusual incident that does not need extra scrutiny from his department:

“I just don’t think it’s something that we need to create more red tape, so to speak, that what we already have,” Childress said.

The harrowing experience has changed Germain’s view on hot air balloons. He had hoped to take a ride someday. Now, Germain says he’ll keep his feet on the ground. Sheriff Childress agreed.

“I’m not a guy that cares for heights,” Chidress chuckled. “I’ll go up in an airplane and that’s scary enough.”

Germain’s video has been posted on WJBC’s Facebook page.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at [email protected]


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