Tourist balloon crash passengers say they would do it again

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

SALT RIVER PIMA INDIAN RES., Ariz. -- A group of adventurers is lucky to be alive after their hot-air balloon crash-landed in a field near Loop 101 and Indian School Road on the Salt River Pima Indian Reservation adjacent to Scottsdale Tuesday morning.

The news chopper was heading home for the morning when the crew spotted the foundering balloon just as it was going down at about 7:10 a.m.

Helicopter reporter Tammy Rose said it looked like the balloon was caught in a wind gust. Wind speeds were reportedly about 20 mph in the area at the time.

"They actually hit the ground several times," Rose said. "You could see something had gone terribly wrong. I knew something wasn't right."

The basket kicked up a large plume of dust as it was dragged across a dirt lot toward the field. As it continued into the field itself, the basket tore a swath through the crop before coming to a stop on its side.

The pilot, Dwayne Osborn of Aerogelic Ballooning, called the incident a "textbook high-wind landing."

"Initially we were planning on landing somewhere in Chandler," Osborn said. "It got windy so we just flew all the way across Mesa, found a nice big field and set it down. ... It just takes takes awhile to get it stopped."

Ross Kochen from Alberta, Canada, was aboard the balloon.

"Nobody's hurt at all," he said. "I'm probably going to need a cold beer sooner than later I guess."

Kochen, who had never been up in a hot-air balloon, said the pilot warned the passengers such a hard landing could be a possibility if the winds kicked up.

"He told us exactly what to do and how to handle it," he said. "That's probably why we're all safe and not hurt."

"I didn't have time to be scared," Kochen's wife, Maryann, said. "I got scared when I got out. That's when the adrenalin hit. ... It was an adrenalin rush. Let's just put it that way. But I wasn't terrified."

Kochen said he'd go back up again, no hesitations.

Aerial video showed at least five people emerging from the basket after the wind dragged it through the field for about 800 or 900 feet. Everybody appeared to be fine, dusting themselves off as they walked away from the deflated balloon. All of them reportedly declined medical treatment.

By 7:35 a.m., the balloon's crew was packing up.