EARL TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) – Police investigating Saturday’s hot air balloon accident in Earl Township, Lancaster County released the names of the three people injured when the balloon hit power lines.
Multiple agencies continue to investigate the cause.
The property owner told abc27 News the balloon started descending over a section of his cornfield. As it was coming down, the basket clipped a couple of corn stalks before bouncing through a hay field, and coming to rest near the power lines.
In a news release Sunday, the New Holland Police Department said it landed safely before 8 p.m. Saturday, then blew over onto the lines as it deflated.
The landowner said it’s common for balloons to land in open fields around the area.
Seth Dochter, a photographer who runs AmishRoadShow.com, captured the balloon’s final moments in the air. He called it a “very surreal event.”
“When I set out to go take pictures,” Dochter said, “I had no idea that’s what was going to happen.”
In fact, he didn’t even know what happened until Sunday morning. He thought he captured a regular balloon landing. It’s a regular sight in Lancaster County.
But this flight seemed different, he said.
“I watch them all the time flying across,” he said, “but, you know, it looked like they were moving at a very fast speed.”
Three people in the balloon’s basket were badly hurt by electric shocks.
Police say the pilot, 55-year-old Robert Fisher of Honey Brook, Chester County is now stable, and was expected to go home as early as Sunday evening.
Robert Spencer, 53, is stable as well, and 48-year-old Melyndia Davis is in critical, but stable condition. Both passengers live outside Baltimore.
The shock stopped Davis’ heart, according to the New Holland PD release, and a bystander was giving her CPR when help arrived.
“The basket was laying on the ground, there were some people laying beside it,” said John Houck, who lives a couple doors down from where the balloon landed. “By that time all the ambulances were coming.”
Houck was mowing his lawn when he saw the balloon come toward his neighbor’s farm. It happens a lot, so he didn’t think anything of it until he heard sirens.
He and others nearby lost power briefly following the accident.
New Holland police Sgt. Mark Willwerth told the Associated Press the balloon was operated by New Horizon Balloon Team, based in Lancaster County.
The company’s web site lists Bob Fisher as one of two pilots sharing a combined 18 years of experience “with no major incidents, and no injuries.”
New Horizon has not released any statements either on their site or on their Facebook page, and calls seeking comment were not returned Sunday.
Several agencies are now investigating: Federal Aviation Administration investigators will “look at the balloon, talk to the operator, review any available video, anything that could have played a role in the event,” FAA spokesperson Kristine Ludwigsen wrote in an email Sunday.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which typically investigates accidents involving serious injuries, is still gathering information before deciding whether or not to open their own file, agency spokesman Peter Knudson said.
PPL crews were also out Sunday morning to investigate for themselves.
As complicated as these investigations can be, it could be weeks, months, or even longer until there are any definitive answers as to what happened.