The victim, Hajnalka, was given the hot air balloon ride as a birthday present from her husband. However, the celebration turned into tragedy when the balloon caught fire on Saturday.
The pilot was on board with three ladies, amongst them Hajnalka, who received the celestial voyage from her husband for her birthday. Her husband had to watch from the ground as the flaming balloon pulled his wife high up into the air, and then as she fell helplessly to her death. The accident was witnessed by several other people who were working on the nearby fields, Blikk reported. Many hurried to the aid of the victims, but Hajnalka could not be saved.
“My daughter and grandchildren were playing in the garden. They are always happy to watch the hot air balloons going up. It was already grey when my daughter rushed inside, ‘Dad, that hot air balloon is on fire!’ she shouted. The vehicle was 150-200 meters high, burned, and objects slipped off of it,” György Hoppár, president of the Vál Civil Guard recalled. He immediately called his companions, they set off by car to help, and soon found the spot where the hot air balloon had hit the ground.
“There were four in the balloon basket, three passengers besides the pilot. The balloon was already on fire when it hit the ground, both the passengers and the pilot got burned, they were trying to jump out, injured. The three of them succeeded, but not one lady, and as the balloon suddenly became lighter, it immediately rose back into the air. And there it fell to pieces,” the civil guard added.
Hajnalka’s husband witnessed the tragedy up close. He saw the burning balloon soar high with Hajnalka still in it. Civil guards and rescue workers struggled at dusk to search for the woman, after an hour and a half of searching, they found her dead, completely burned, with a gas cylinder next to her.
“We started flying together more than twenty years ago. We flew together several times. The pilot is a well-trained, highly experienced professional. It is quite certain that he did everything he could to put out the fire and put his passengers to the ground safely,” Norbert Mészáros, Secretary General of the Hungarian Balloon Association, told Blikk. “This is a smaller basket with four people in an area of just one square meter and 3-4 pieces of 23-pound gas cylinders next to them. There may have been a leak. Although pilots are being trained to deal with emergencies, it may not have been possible to stop this with a fire extinguisher,” he added.
The pilot was transported to the intensive care unit after the accident, but he got out of there, and his condition stabilised. The police have initiated criminal proceedings against an unknown perpetrator for endangering fatal aviation. The hot air balloon flights continued the next day, without any restrictions being ordered.
On the 30th of August Daily News Hungary published an article with the headline ‘Discover Hungary by hot air balloon’. I think in light of this tragedy, I’ll take a rain check….