CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Three sightseeing balloons crashed Monday in a popular Wyoming tourist destination, injuring as many as 20 people in what one passenger called a terrifying few minutes.
The balloons, owned by the same tour operator, went down separately near Jackson Hole and did not crash into each other, Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said. The exact cause was under investigation, but the weather was apparently a factor, he said.
The crash was terrifying, balloon passenger Clinton Phillipstold the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
“I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was,” Phillips said. “And then we were in hell a few minutes later. It was crazy.”
Passengers in one balloon carrying about 20 people tried desperately not to fall out, he said.
“It was lifting us up and slamming us back down again,” Phillips said.
Another balloon carrying 12-year-old Robert Krayevski and his family was dragged across a field and crashed into a fence.
“Our captain fell off while we were in it,” Krayevski told the newspaper. “We bounced and went back up in the air by ourselves. The captain was yelling to pull the red ropes. We tipped over and we had to get out because of possible fire. I got out and people were laying on the ground hurt.”
The weather in Jackson Hole, near Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, was partly cloudy with winds of 9 mph (14 kph) shortly after the accident.
At least one person was flown to a hospital in Idaho Falls for treatment. The crash scene involved an area about half a mile (1 kilometer) long.
All three balloons belonged to the Wyoming Balloon Co., Carr said. A call to the company seeking comment rang through to a voice mailbox that was full.