Post Mills pilot killed in fall from hot-air balloon

  • Investigators, including those from the Federal Aviation Administration, gather along the Connecticut River and Route 25 in Bradford, Vt., on Friday. According to Vermont State Police, pilot Brian Boland died after falling from an out-of-control hot-air balloon in Bradford Thursday night. Valley News photographs — Geoff Hansen

  • Boland at Post Mills Airport in June 2010.

  • Investigators, including those from the Federal Aviation Administration, gather along the Connecticut River and Route 25 in Bradford, Vt., on July 16, 2021. According to Vermont State Police, pilot Brian Boland died after falling from an out-of-control hot-air balloon in Bradford on July 15. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • In a harness he created, Brian Boland, of Post Mills, Vt., takes off attached to a hot-air balloon with a passenger above Westshire Elementary School in West Fairlee, Vt., on Feb. 26, 2013. Boland, the 72-year-old pilot of a hot-air balloon, was killed July 15, 2021, after he fell to the ground in a field in Bradford, Vt., and three of his passengers were then carried across the Connecticut River before the ship became entangled in trees in Piermont, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Staff report
Published: 7/16/2021 5:41:00 PM

BRADFORD, Vt. — Residents along the Connecticut River say they saw a hot-air balloon whose pilot fell to his death flying erratically on Thursday afternoon.

Vermont State Police said a mishap on the ground in Vermont spilled a passenger from the balloon basket and caused the pilot, Brian Boland, 72, of Post Mills, to become tangled in equipment before the balloon ascended and Boland “fell to the ground from a height.”

The unpiloted balloon then carried the remaining three passengers across the river, where it became stuck in a tree in Piermont.

Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are leading the investigation and were in the Upper Valley Friday morning.

Boland and four passengers took off from the Post Mills Airport late Thursday afternoon, according to a news release from Vermont State Police. The balloon they were flying on the sightseeing excursion was a Cameron 0-105, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

At some point north of the airport, the balloon began to descend and briefly touched down in a field, according to police.

A preliminary FAA report said that the balloon “landed in a field and bounced hard, ejecting the pilot and a passenger.”

Somehow, police said, Boland became entangled in gear that was affixed to the balloon, which rose back into the air. He wound up ensnared under the basket before falling to his death in a field along Waits River Road, aka Route 25, in Bradford, according to a statement from police.

Then, the balloon and its three remaining passengers sailed across the Connecticut River for about 1½ miles before it became caught in a grove of trees. The passengers, whom authorities have not named, were able to climb down to safety, the release said.

Neighbors in the area said the grove of trees was located near a horse farm off River Road in Piermont.

The FAA confirmed that the remaining passengers climbed down around 9:30 p.m. Thursday, but declined to comment further on the timeline of events or where the incidents occurred.

None of the passengers was injured.

The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington will conduct an autopsy, authorities said.

Residents in the area said they saw the balloon rise and dip twice as it traveled up the Connecticut River, but don’t recall seeing anything unusual under the basket of the balloon.

Some residents, like Dave Ritchie, who runs Glen Farm on River Road, said at one point the balloon seemed to rise unusually high in the sky, but said he didn’t think much of it until he learned what happened on Friday.

Ritchie recalled Boland, who occasionally landed hot-air balloons in his farmland off of River Road, once even offering to give Ritchie a ride.

Boland was the owner-operator of the airport in Post Mills and a long-time hot-air ballooning enthusiast in the Upper Valley.




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