Thursday, December 7, 2017

Safety is main concern after hot air balloon becomes entangled in power lines

Early on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 3, a hot air balloon came in contact with power lines in Appleton. Riders in the basket of the balloon stayed put until We Energies arrived on the scene to de-energize the wires.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. The situation, however, was quite dangerous. “This is probably the oddest I’ve seen because there were people involved,” said employee Jeff Ortscheid. He’s pulled everything from trampolines to metal shed roofs from power lines, but the nervous passengers in the basket made this a trickier situation.

When Ortscheid got the call, his first thought and focus was getting people out safe. He, like nearly all electric utility troubleshooters, has responded to car/pole accidents where the lines remain energized, so he first de-energized the line, cutting power to four nearby customers so that the passengers could exit the balloon safely. Once the passengers were safe, the balloon itself was able to be removed from the power lines.

“It was heavy!” he said, noting that hot air balloons have lots of ropes and lines that make a downed balloon harder to maneuver. He waited for a co-worker to arrive at the scene before taking the balloon down. “We were glad to just get everyone in the clear.”

The passengers did the right thing by staying in the basket until help arrived. Their story is a good reminder of how dangerous an energized line can be, and how to react safely when a vehicle, be it a car or a hot air balloon, comes into contact with energized equipment.

If your vehicle contacts a power line, stay inside until rescue workers say it is safe to leave. If you must leave your vehicle because of fire or other danger, jump away from the vehicle so that you do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Land with your feet together and shuffle away.

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