Lack of morning wind proves problem for pilots over river

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 22, 2000

Two balloons participating in the Saturday morning flight of the 15th annual Great Mississippi Balloon Race landed in the Mississippi River near its banks.

But no one was injured, and no equipment was damaged, according to the balloons’ pilots and Laura Godfrey, race committee chairman.

&uot;I had a full tank of fuel, so I don’t really know what happened — I&160;just lost power,&uot; said Terry Colgate of West Monroe, La., pilot of a balloon that landed in the river near its Mississippi side.

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&uot;Everyone’s OK and the balloon’s OK, and those are the main things,&uot; added Colgate, who was carrying one passenger at the time the accident happened.

&uot;There was no wind, absolutely none,&uot; said pilot Dean Durr of Waynesboro, describing why his balloon landed on the Louisiana side.

A barge heading in the direction of the balloons was alerted of the accidents by the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, according to Bubba Richardson, a volunteer for the department’s Special Operations Unit.

The sheriff’s office also brought in its helicopter to create a &uot;downdraft&uot; that blew the envelopes, or balloon parts of the crafts, onto the banks of the river, he said.

&uot;We’re in constant communication with the folks involved in the race, including the pilots, so we know when something’s wrong,&uot; Richardson said.

Another minor incident happened at 6 p.m. Saturday, when a remote control airplane being controlled by Richard Ezel of Vidalia flew through the envelope of a balloon being piloted by Gary Nelson at the Concordia Parish Airport near Vidalia, said Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell.

The balloon was already preparing to descend and was just 75 feet from the ground when the incident happened, according to Allen Yost, a director of the National Association of Balloon Pilots, which sponsors the annual Natchez balloon race.

There were no injuries, but the accident caused an estimated $3,000 to $4,000 worth of damage to the balloon, Ferrell said.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the accident as it does all aircraft-related incidents, according to race officials.