EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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June 22, 2013

Balloonist says wayward wind caused crash

Power killed in 3 towns, but pilot and four passengers escape injury

Charles Sica was all set to land his hot-air balloon in a Hampstead field yesterday morning, when things suddenly went awry.

“A gust of wind came from a different direction and blew us into the power line,” Sica said.

The balloon crashed into power lines near 174 Emerson Avenue just after 7 a.m. yesterday. Neither Sica or his four passengers suffered any injuries.

Sica is a pilot for Havasu Ballooning, which is based in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. He flies in Arizona during the winter time and comes up to New England during the summer.

While there were no injuries, the accident did cause a disturbance around town. Public Services of New Hampshire reported the crash knocked out power to 3,500 customers in Hampstead, Danville and Sandown. All power was restored by 9:45 a.m.

The crash also closed Emerson Avenue for three hours between East Road and Wash Pond Road as crews worked to remove the balloon from the scene.

Sica said he had noticed his balloon was deflating and made the decision to land it in the field.

“We were just about to touch the ground, and then the wind kind of slabbed us right in.” he said.

According to police Lt. John Frazier, the balloon hit a tree first before it descended into the power lines. The basket then slowly went to the ground.

“They were quite fortunate that no one was electrocuted,” Frazier said.

Frazier said the balloon had taken off from the parking lot of the Wal-Mart in Salem, N.H.

Sica said one of the first things he did was shut off the propane from the balloon, as it was landing.

“That’s how we are trained to do it.,” he said.

Sica said he tried to calm his four passengers, Stephanie Gauthier and Dominique Maltais of Windham and Ronald and Sharon Fish of Westmoreland, while the balloon was landing.

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