Seventeen passengers on a hot air balloon trip descended into an alligator pond near Disney World on the Fourth of July. No one was seriously injured.
The hot air balloon pilot, Russ Lucas, was forced to land in alligator-infested retention pond to avoid power lines due to a sudden wind shift said Orlando Balloons Rides owner Keith Fears.
— Lauren Seabrook (@LSeabrookWFTV) July 3, 2017
“We were excited about this, but it got scary real fast. The balloon tilted. The basket tilted. People got underneath the plastic, and that’s when it got serious,” said one passenger.
“It was adrenaline. It was pumping. It was scary. Now we’re kind of making fun of it, but it was serious. It was lucky no one got hurt,” passenger Sebastian Westerby told WTFTV-TV.
Fears said he thinks the pilot absolutely made the right decision, did what he needed to do to avoid something far worse and made sure everyone stayed safe.
Fears said he and Lucas were cooperating with FAA and National Safety Transportation Board investigations.
He said his company was “committed to making things right” and that the trip was not the “fantastic experience” passengers were looking for.
It took roughly an hour to retrieve the balloon from the pond.
Alligators may seem scary, but fatal attacks are actually not that common. Alligators have only claimed 23 fatalities in Florida since the 1940s according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission statistics. However, each year there are around a dozen bites recorded.
People are not what alligators want to eat most of the time.
When a 2-year-old last year was dragged into the water by an alligator it was likely because it confused the small child for a dog or a raccoon said executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Nick Wiley.
“People—even small people—are not their typical prey,” he said.