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THE operator of a hot-air balloon that crashed in NSW’s Hunter Valley, didn’t call 000 after the accident and described it as just a ‘firm landing’.
A HOT air balloon crash in NSW’s Hunter Valley that injured 11 people has been described as just a “firm landing” by the operator, who also decided not to call 000.
Emergency services were only informed of the accident by Cessnock Hospital after the balloon operator took some passengers there for treatment.
A NSW Ambulance spokesman said the patients were aged between seven and 38 years old. Two women aged 34 and 36 were taken to John Hunter Hospital with suspected spinal injuries as a precautionary measure. They are all in a stable condition.
An ambulance later attended the scene to ensure other passengers were not in need of medical treatment. Hopefully there were first aid course trained staff on hand.
When asked whether the operator should have called 000, an NSW Ambulance spokesman said it was best to get qualified medical attention in these circumstances so that the correct interventions could be identified.
NSW Police is now investing the circumstances of the incident, which saw the balloon come down on McDonald’s Rd, Pokolbin about 8am today.
Inspector Rob Post of Hunter Valley Police said there may have been contact with a tree but authorities were still compiling information to give to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
He said the balloon had already left the area by the time authorities reached the scene and agreed that this could make it harder for investigators.
When asked whether the balloon operator had a duty of care to call 000, Insp Post said it was “commonsense” to make the call when there were injured people. But he said police were not looking at criminal charges regarding this.
Anyone who saw the balloon landing or noticed it having any difficulties in flight is being urged to contact police.
Matt Scaise from Balloon Safaris told The Daily Telegraph the balloon landed “firmer than normal”.
“We had a bit of a firm landing that was all — it was a routine landing,” he said.
“They landed firmer than normal, and when they landed the pilot said ‘is everybody okay?’, and three people said they had a few problems … our crew member took three to Cessnock Hospital.”
He said the story had been inflamed and “it hits our business so hard”.
Balloon Safaris was also involved in a crash in January with 15 people on-board. The accident left four people in hospital, including a young woman with suspected spinal injuries.
Police are urging anyone with information in relation to today’s incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or go online at: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/
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