The Bank of American Fork’s piggy bank hot air balloon crashed after another balloon’s basket tore a hole in the piggy bank.
The piggy bank, named Seymour, briefly caught fire before it descended into the trees on the southeast side of the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center campus, near the area of demolished houses.
The balloon took off at the launch point at Fox Field in Provo. According to Battalion Chief Kevin Paxton, the balloon ascended 300 yards and went a block south when it was struck by another balloon’s basket. The pilot then turned on the burners to keep as much hot air in the balloon as possible. The balloon melted and caught fire momentarily. The descent was fast, and the balloon landed in trees at about 300 East and 800 North.
“I’ve worked for over 20 years, and there has never been one incident at the balloon launch. This the first one I know of,” Paxton said.
No one was seriously injured. The pilot, Erwin Oertli, only sustained minor burns to his neck from melted balloon material. He was treated and released on scene. He was the only occupant in the piggy bank balloon.
“What saved my bacon was that the head of the pig held a lot of hot air and helped the balloon to descend at a safer rate,” said Oertli in a statement from Bank of American Fork.
Oertli and Seymour have been flying for Bank of American Fork since 1999, according to Christopher Liechty, the vice president of marketing.
“We are very grateful that there were no serious injuries in what is being called a ‘fender bender’ among hot air balloons,” Paul Warner, executive director of America’s Freedom Festival, said in an emailed statement.
According to the statement the Balloon Festival will continue as scheduled.