Hot air balloon struck Indiana power lines, burning 3 people in basket

LOWELL, Ind. (AP) — A hot air balloon struck power lines before crashing to the ground over the weekend in northwestern Indiana, injuring the pilot and the two passengers, officials said Tuesday.

The balloon contacted the power lines Sunday evening in Hebron, Indiana, about 56 miles (90 kilometers) southeast of Chicago, the Federal Aviation Administration said in an email to The Associated Press.

A flash of light can be seen as the balloon rises past power lines in a video recorded from a vehicle on an adjacent road.

The balloon crashed about 7 p.m. in a field about 13 miles (21 kilometers) southeast of Hebron, according to the Lowell Fire Department. The injured passengers and pilot were inside the balloon's basket when rescue personnel arrived.

Evidence showed that an electrical current passed from the power lines to the basket, the fire department said in a social media post. All three people suffered burns.

Medical helicopters transported the two passengers to hospitals in Chicago. The balloon's pilot was taken to a hospital in nearby Crown Point, Indiana. Their names and conditions have not been released.

The FAA described the information as preliminary and said the National Transportation Safety Board is leading an investigation.

Due to how balloons operate and where they can take off and land, their pilots are well aware of the dangers posed by power lines, said Patrick Cannon, president of the Balloon Federation of America.

They also are allowed to fly below 500 feet (152 meters) as long as they stay at least 500 feet from people, houses, animals and other obstacles, he added.

“They deal with power lines all the time and go through a lot of training," Cannon said. “Power lines can be very difficult to see from the air because they blend in with the terrain.”