Hot-Air Balloon Pilot, 72, Dies After Falling from Aircraft in Vermont

Pilot Brian Boland was pronounced dead on the scene, while none of the four passengers aboard the hot-air balloon at the time of the accident were injured

Brian Boland
Brian Boland. Photo: Facebook

An experienced hot-air balloon pilot died on Thursday evening after falling to the ground during a flight in Vermont.

The accident took place in Bradford, located close to the New Hampshire border, and the pilot was identified as Brian Boland, 72, Vermont State Police said in a news release.

As the balloon, which took off from the Post Mills Airport, began to descend, police said it "briefly touched down in a field," after which "the basket tipped" and one of the four passengers also aboard fell out.

"During this sequence, the pilot became entangled in gear affixed to the balloon as it re-ascended," became trapped underneath the basket and "eventually fell to the ground from a great height," the release said.

Boland landed in a field near Waits River Road and was pronounced dead at the scene. A cause of death will be determined by the Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Burlington.

After Boland's fall, the balloon continued traveling for around 1.5 miles before getting caught in some trees in New Hampshire, according to police. It was then that the remaining three passengers were able to safely exit the aircraft.

None of the passengers, including the one who had previously fallen out of the basket, were injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are currently investigating the circumstances of the accident.

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Boland's death was mourned on Friday by the Balloon Federation of America.

"We have just learned of the passing of Brian Boland," they wrote in a social media tribute. "Our prayers and condolences go out to his family and friends."

The pilot's ballooning career dates back to the 1970s, when he gave up teaching at a local high school to follow his passion, according to The New York Times.

"Depending on how you look at it, I have become the largest home‐built balloon maker — or the world's smallest balloon manufacturing company," he told the newspaper back in 1979.

According to the Times, Boland also became the first person to cross the Long Island Sound in a small balloon, traveling over 250 miles in only four hours.

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"He is one of the most experienced balloonist[s] in the world, has set numerous world records, and won several national championships," read a since-deleted post on the website of the Rabbit Hill Inn, which is located near the Post Mills Airport, where Boland's final flight flew out of.

"Brian has flown balloons all over the world, including the Alps and the Andes. In addition, he is a world famous balloon designer," the post continued, noting that Boland also had a private collection of over 100 balloons and airships.

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