Wind conditions are to blame for an emergency hot air balloon landing which left seven passengers injured in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, the flight’s operator says.
Four men and three women, aged between 20 and 70-years-old, were injured when their hot air balloon made a hard landing on private property at Dixons Creek, near Kinglake, on Thursday morning.
The balloon, carrying 15 local and international passengers and an operator, left the Glenburn area at 6.15am and flew for 45 minutes before “unusual and unanticipated” wind conditions forced an emergency landing, the operator said.
“The wind conditions, both predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology, observed pre-flight and anticipated by the pilot, changed markedly in flight,” Go Wild Ballooning said in a statement.
Pilot Mark Fraser, who has 30 years of flying experience in the Yarra Valley, made an emergency landing in an area he deemed safe, the company added.
“Moments before landing the pilot observed a large dam with mist above it which indicated calm conditions for landing.”
The conditions experienced by Mr Fraser were felt by another six balloons in the area, the company said, but other operators told AAP they did not experience any trouble during their flights or landings this morning.
Go Wild Ballooning has apologised to the injured passengers and their families.
All on board were assessed by Ambulance Victoria paramedics, who say they were lucky only seven people were injured.
“The incident obviously had a potential to be much worse,” paramedic manager Ben Allan said.
We were fairly lucky that we got away with just seven transports (to hospital). We could have had significant injuries and a lot more people (going) to hospital.”
Six of the seven patients suffered back injuries and are aged over 50.
“All patients essentially had similar injuries and they were largely all neck and back injuries,” Mr Allan said.
At the most severe, one woman aged in her 60s was taken to Box Hill Hospital with suspected ankle fractures.
A witness named Mark told 3AW radio he saw two balloons approaching the ground as he was driving nearby.
“I was driving past that way heading to Wodonga. The (two) balloons were getting closer to the ground,” he said.
“The basket was on its side and people were close around it.
“I thought, ‘that doesn’t look right.'”
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau and Victoria Police will investigate.