‘World’s Top Hot Air Balloon Pilot’ Gets Tangled in Gear, Falls to Death on Flight in Vermont

by Emily Morgan

On Thursday, a famous hot air balloon pilot died after falling to his death during a crash landing.

Brian Boland tragically died after becoming entangled in his hot air balloon gear underneath the basket during a flight over the Connecticut River. The accident occurred after the 72-year-old took off with his balloon that was carrying four passengers.

After Boland fell to his death, Roger Blake, 73, a passenger at the time, was thankfully able to land the balloon safely. Blake’s wife, 67-year-old Ellen, and Boland both fell from the basket after the pilot landed the balloon when he realized that the balloon’s burner had gone out.

Once the burner went out, it descended toward the ground, and Boland quickly searched for an igniter. Unfortunately, it was too late. The balloon crash-landed in a field, and the landing force caused the basket to roll over.

The impact threw Ellen, Blake, and Boland from the basket. Boland became entangled in ropes underneath the basket; meanwhile, the relit burner began ascending into the air. He later became entangled in harness gear he had affixed to the balloon as it gained altitude.

Local authorities said he eventually ‘fell to the ground from an (unknown) height’ into a Vermont field and was later pronounced dead.

“I had no idea what I was doing,’ Roger Blake told a news outlet, recounting the terrifying moments in the balloon. “I just kept looking for a place to land.”

Three Passengers Survive Fatal Hot Air Balloon Crash

The balloon then traveled for over a mile. Blake told his granddaughter, who was also in the aircraft at the time, to put her head down inside the basket while he tried to land the balloon.

He then located a field behind a farm in New Hampshire. As he prepared to land, the balloon landed on top of a group of trees. Now, stuck in danger, the branches under the basket began to break off, and the basket kept getting closer to the ground.

Thankfully, the basket stayed upright and was just a few feet from the ground. The family then jumped to the ground. No one in the family was injured.

According to NBC5 News, Boland was a world-renowned pilot. “The guy was probably the top balloon pilot in the world,” said Scott Wright, who knew Boland for over 30 years. “It must have been some freaky, flukey thing that happened.”

Mick Murphy, a balloon pilot and past president of the Balloon Federation of America from Bethlehem, Connecticut, said he’d known the deceased pilot since the mid-1980s.

He described Boland as a talented artist who designed a balloon in 1971 to fly over his college’s campus.

In the world, there are approximately 3,000 hot air balloon accidents per year. In the US, there are about 20 accidents per year. However, fatalities are rare.