PROVO — A pink hot air balloon in the shape of a pig went down Thursday morning following a midair collision with another balloon at the Balloon Fest.
The collision — at 1,200 feet in the air — ripped a 12-foot hole in the balloon when another balloon clipped it from above. The pink balloon went down near 300 West and 900 North in Provo around 7:30 a.m.
The pilot's face was cut, but no one was significantly injured. The incident, however, created some terrifying moments.
"I heard a big 'smuck' and the top of my balloon and a basket came through my balloon," said Erwin Oertli, who was piloting the Bank of American Fork pig balloon.
"My first thought was, 'Am I going to be able to control this or am I a goner?'"
Four children were in the basket of the balloon above.
"The basket was inside (the pink balloon), and it was really hot in the balloon," said 10-year-old Kohler Garvin.
Confused and frightened, the younger children said they ducked down while the older children helped.
"I was crouching down and waiting to get out of the pig," 9-year-old Aiden King said.
"I was looking over and I was trying to help them get the fabric off," explained Katrina King, 11.
As the balloon fabric melted on Oertli's face, he said he navigated a hard landing and the pig draped over a tree.
"I didn't have much time to think about anything else, except just taking care of business until I could get down the ground. I should have kissed the ground," he said with a chuckle.
Fellow balloon pilots praised Oertli and the other pilot for their quick reactions.
"At the end of the day he did everything in an airborne emergency that you would do to land and have no serious problems," said Curt Bramble, safety coordinator for America's Freedom Festival at Provo.
When Kevin Auernig saw the pink balloon come down fast and land in a fenced construction zone, he thought the parts of the balloon stuck on a tree looked like strips of bacon.
He said some people jumped the fence to try to help the pilot, who was bleeding from a cut over his eye and appeared shaken up.
Balloon Fest officials said it was the first midair collision in its 31-year history. Balloons will also be launched on Friday and Saturday mornings and Oertli said he'll be there to launch another.
Contributing: Associated Press
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