Runaway hot air balloon loses control in Taitung, lands safely

Runaway hot air balloon loses control in Taitung, lands safely

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A hot air balloon carrying three people lost control and drifted in the air for almost three hours in Taitung yesterday before some 30 people on the ground managed to pull it down to safety, officials said.

All three were uninjured in the emergency landing in Hongyeh Village in the mountains of Taitung, the officials from the eastern county's tourism department said.

"Bang," an old woman recalled hearing when the balloon landed, according to the Central News Agency. "A hot air balloon fell from the sky. A deep valley was not far away. They were lucky that did not fall into the valley."

The balloon took off from a plain in Taitung at around 5 p.m. carrying two pilots and a co-worker, according to officials.

It later lost control and was carried south by winds in a path close to the mountains. Unable to steer it back to the starting place, the pilots tried in vain to find a place to land.

The balloon's failure to return was reported to authorities at about 6:40 p.m. when it was getting dark.

Hongyeh residents spotted the drifting balloon at around 7:40 p.m. and shone flashlights to direct the balloon to a clearing in the village where it could land. The pilots then released a rope that villagers managed to use to pull the balloon down to safety.

Hot air balloon rides have been a major tourist attraction in Taitung over the past two years.

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