Plop - power goes out By Anika Forsman 22 Nov 2007
HOW deflating – the Civil Aviation Authority is awaiting a report from Queenstown hot-air balloon operators who got caught in live powerlines last Sunday. Glenorchy’s power was cut off for more than two hours during the spring carnival after a hot-air balloon made an emergency descent during a stunt in the recreation ground.
Sunrise Balloons had invited local daredevil Chuck Berry to jump from the balloon when they were caught in a wind gust and hit powerlines in front of more than 30 spectators. CAA’s Bill Sommer confirms hot-air balloon incidents fall under their jurisdiction but they haven’t heard from the company. “We would expect that in the end it’s reported to the CAA,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be instant – just as soon as is practicable.” An eyewitness told Mountain Scene the balloon was flying quite high before it came to grief. “You could smell burnt nylon from the balloon and that’s what probably shorted out the power,” says a Glenorchy source not wanting to be named. “I was asked to move further away from the wreck – I think they were a bit worried about the gas cylinders.”
When Mountain Scene first contacted Sunrise Balloons the woman answering the phone refused to comment or give her name. “I’ve got nothing to tell you,” she says. “Mountain Scene drives me absolutely mad, you always love it when something goes wrong.” Sunrise owner and pilot Hugh McLellan did speak to Mountain Scene yesterday and admits a wind change caused one of the balloon’s tethering ropes to hit the powerlines, forcing him to descend quickly. “It would’ve been a non-event except when the lines touched they should’ve tripped out but the [power pole fuse] was faulty and turned the whole system off. “There wasn’t any damage to the balloon and it [has] just had a 100-hour [maintenance] check and it’s good as gold.” Daredevil Berry was onboard with McLellan and one other person when the crash landing happened: “I was just going to do a jump at the end of the day but the wind changed – because we were tethered to the ground it caused a bit more difficulty,” he says. “Hugh used his exceptional flying skills and got us down safely."