77. Up, Up, and Away
Twelve people in British Columbia experienced a disastrous balloon ride when it accidentally caught fire. The balloon was still tied to the ground when the fire started. Three people jumped out immediately and safely. But the ropes securing the balloon burnt through and the basket started rising.
Seven more people jumped out as quickly as they could, but each one jumped from a higher height. The last two jumped from almost 50 feet up. Their clothes were on fire. They survived, but both would be in the hospital for several months, according to officials. The others escaped with broken bones and first- and second-degree burns, but nothing "critical." Officials said that another balloon fire, causing no deaths and only minor injuries, had occurred only a week earlier.
The two balloon riders who failed to jump out were a married couple celebrating their 50th anniversary. Their oldest son had surprised them with this "champagne flight" as a gift. The couple burnt to death in the basket, which ascended to about 500 feet. Then the entire balloon burst into flames and plummeted to the ground, landing in a trailer park. The basket was still burning furiously. It looked like an orange torch as it descended, brilliant against the blue sky. Four trailers were destroyed by the bomb-like effect of the basket's heavy landing. When the dust finally cleared, the married couple were found, completely charred, embracing each other.
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