Winds Bring Down 3 Hot Air Balloons, 12 People Hospitalized

Photo – Brad Boner/Jackson Hole News&Guide via AP

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) – Authorities say a dozen people hospitalized yesterday after three sightseeing hot air balloons went down in western Wyoming near Jackson Hole yesterday. One passenger called it a terrifying few minutes.

Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr says the balloons didn’t crash into each other and went down separately with the weather apparently contributing to the mishaps. An FAA spokesperson said each balloon “landed hard under unknown circumstances”

Jackson Hole Fire Chief Brady Hansen says the 3 balloons were carrying a total of 36 people when they crashed just after 8 am near the foothills of Teton Village about 12 miles northwest of Jackson. 11 were taken to local hospitals and one was flown to a Level 1 trauma center in Idaho Falls, ID.

Chief Hansen says it appears an unexpected downdraft forced the balloons to the ground swiftly, adding that the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate further.

All three balloons are owned by Wyoming Balloon Co., a sightseeing operator which has not commented about the incident.

Passenger Clinton Phillips from Austin, Texas, was riding in the largest of the 3 balloons with his wife and three children and told ABC News he saw the other two balloons hit the ground with one of them “tossed around” before crashing and tipping over.

Phillips says his own 20-passenger ballot tipped over while it hit and was dragged about 200 yards before coming to a stop in a ravine.