Sunday, November 18, 2007

More on the Iowa incident.

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Iowa -- Two men died Friday in a balloon crash in northern Iowa.
Witnesses told police that the balloon hit the top power line before diving 65-feet onto a farm field around 9:15 a.m., southwest of the town of Coulter.

KCCI has learned that Dr. Tom Boylan, 62, and Bradley Brookhart, 37 from Littleton, Colo., died in the crash. Boylan is from Fort Collins, Colo., and had more than 20-years experience piloting balloons.
Rescue crews said Doug Chaplin, of Albuquerque, was flown by helicopter to Mercy Medical Center North Iowa in Mason City. Chaplin had serious injuries. His condition is unknown.
Police were able to talk to Chaplin who told them the crew was attempting to land when they hit the power line, but he wasn't able to explain why the crew was landing. Friday, he was listed in fair condition.
"For some reason (they) were coming down. We got witnesses that watched and as you can see there, they caught the top wire. And at that point the balloon and the basket separated, and it's about a 65 foot drop," Sheriff Larry Richtsmeier said.
The balloon top blew more than a mile north of the crash site.
Federal Aviation Administration investigators were headed to the scene to take over the investigation.
The Trip
The three men originally left Greeley, Colo., on Wednesday night and had an East Coast destination. Their balloon was loaded with gear and supplies for their cross-country trip.
A second balloon that left Colorado on Wednesday was also reported traveling over Iowa Friday. That balloon was piloted by Troy Bradley, of Albuquerque, who was trying to set a a world record flight for distance and duration for the AM-3 balloon. The balloon mixes hot air and helium.
A website tracking Bradley's progress last reported him near Omaha on Nov. 14.
Friends confirm to KCCI that Bradley's balloon landed safely in southern Wisconsin at around 5:09 p.m. Friday.
A Colorado newspaper, The Greeley Tribune, reported that Bradley "easily broke the world duration record, which was 27.5 hours and by Friday morning had been in the air more than 30 hours."
Dr. Tom Boylan
“All of a sudden there was a lot of chatter about a balloon accident this morning and when I heard of the fatalities, I thought that may be Dr. Tom,” Frank Wechter said.

Hours later, Wechter learned it was his friend.

The two pilots met in 2001 flying in the America's Challenge in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since then they have flown together on trips all over the country.

Wechter sent KCCI a picture of Boylan in his gas balloon "The Sandman" which he said was likely the balloon involved in Friday's crash.

“Gas ballooning is extreme ballooning because unlike hot air balloons which fly one to two hours, gas balloons are one to three to four days, and you encounter weather,” Wechter said.

Ballooning was something Wechter said his friend loved to do in his free time. Dr. Boylan lived in Fort Collins, Colo., and worked as a pain management doctor.

“The man was sympathetic to people and so he was a people person and he loved his wife and love his daughter, Marilyn,” Wechter said.

Wechter said Boylan was in his mid-fifties and had every intention of flying for years to come.
“He was certainly not a man who would choose to die now, but in terms of living and dying, I think probably he died in the fashion living the way he wanted to,” Wechter said.

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