Friday, August 31, 2007

Pilot meets survivor of B.C. hot air balloon crash

Last Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2007 | 3:23 PM PT
CBC News
A survivor of a recent fatal hot air balloon crash in Surrey, B.C., met with the pilot on Wednesday and now says she understands why he was unable to help some of the passengers.

Diana Rutledge, who is recovering in the hospital from her injuries, had been critical of Stephen Pennock, the pilot at the helm of the balloon and owner of Fantasy Balloon Charters.

After talking to Pennock, Rutledge said she understood why the pilot couldn't help passengers in the gondola when it caught fire.

Pennock told her he was blown out of the gondola when it exploded, and couldn't get back because of the flames, Rutledge said.

Two passengers, a 49-year-old mother and her 21-year-old daughter, died and 11 others were injured when a fire erupted just before the balloon was to take off Friday. The blazing balloon and gondola then crashed into an RV park.

Rutledge said she is pleased that Pennock paid her a visit but added that she will still pursue legal action if she is not compensated for lost work.

"I need to be compensated because I need to live," she told CBC News Wednesday. Rutledge holds down two jobs as a bartender but doctors told her it will be months before she can put weight on her feet, she said.

Also on Wednesday, Pennock visited the RV park in south Surrey where the flaming balloon landed, destroying several mobile homes and vehicles. No one was hurt at the park. He also paid his respects at a makeshift memorial for the two women killed.

(With files from the Canadian Press)

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