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Balloon, Paraglider Collide at Arizona Airfest

Balloon, paraglider collision
Photo Credit: Jon Pelletier/Verde Independent

October 21, 2010 — Four people suffered non-life-threatening injuries when a powered paraglider collided with a hot air balloon at the start of Cottonwood, Arizona’s Airfest last Saturday, October 16. According to the Verde Independent, about 12 balloons lifted off the Cottonwood Airport at 7 a.m. and were soon joined in the air by two powered paragliders. Around 7:30 one of the paragliders got too close to one of the balloons, became entangled in the ropes, and tore the balloon fabric, causing it to deflate. Both aircraft fell about 500 feet from the sky, according to local police.

Independent photographer Jon Pelletier was able to snap off several shots of the balloon and PPG as they floated to the ground. (See a photo gallery here.)

The three occupants of the balloon, pilot Eric Wadleigh and passengers Susan Evans and Jon Bidolf, were taken to area hospitals while the PPG pilot, Kenneth Ritchie, suffered head and spinal injuries and was airlifted out. Both the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

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