Two hurt as balloon hits rail power lines

21st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Nine occupants of a hot-air balloon had a narrow escape Saturday when the craft hit overhead railway power lines in western France, leaving two people slightly hurt, authorities said.

"There was nearly a disaster," a police investigator commented, while a railways spokesman added, "They were really lucky that no train was coming."

The accident near Nantes at around 7:20 am (0520 GMT), when the line is particularly busy, forced the rerouting of seven high-speed trains while bus services had to be laid on for local passengers.

Police said the pilot of the balloon, who was taking eight people on an air experience flight, had planned to land in a field near the line but was too low.

Efforts to gain height failed and the balloon's envelope became entangled in the 25,000-volt power lines, causing a short-circuit.

The two injured passengers suffered only slight burns to the arms.

The balloon's operators said the pilot was very experienced, with more than 700 hours of flying time, and they were trying to determine if there had been a technical problem or human error.

© 2011 AFP

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