DALLAS, TX – Two pilots competing in a gas balloon race faced a perilous situation earlier this week when their hydrogen-filled balloon crashed into power lines in North Texas. Krzystotf Zapart and Pjotr Halas, representing the Polish national team in the Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race, reported an alarming incident that led to their emergency landing. According to Zapart, they believed they were being targeted by gunfire, hearing rapid successive shots just before the incident.
Following the collision with the power lines, the balloon quickly caught fire. Israel Alfaro, a local Dallas English teacher, was one of the Good Samaritans who rushed to aid the pilots. He described a harrowing scene: intense flames, blinding smoke, and an injured pilot with broken legs that needed to be pulled from the wreckage. Alfaro, alongside two others, managed to rescue Zapart, who sustained burns, cuts, and a ribcage injury. Halas suffered from more severe burns and a broken bone.
While both pilots’ condition remains concerning, Halas’s status has shifted from critical to serious, as noted by a hospital representative. When reflecting on the incident, Zapart expressed concerns that their balloon could have been mistaken for a Chinese spy apparatus, suggesting it could be a broader issue for balloonists. However, this perspective isn’t universally accepted. Crandall Police Department commented they were unaware of any gunshots fired at the balloon, and further investigations are underway. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently probing into the crash. A spokesperson from the race organization sent well wishes to the pilots, emphasizing their extensive experience in gas ballooning.