‘Creative to the end and always willing to share his love of ballooning and the true spirit of lighter than air aviation with anyone who would listen,’ says fellow hot air balloon pilot in tribute
Brian Boland, 72, a resident of Post Mills was found dead by Vermont State Police. He was taking a group in a hot air balloon, as he was employed by Silver Lake Maple Lodge and Cottages to give tours..
On his employer’s website, Mr Boland was described as “one of the most experienced pilots in the world” and the company boasted that he “has set numerous world records, won national championships and has flown all over the world”.
The vessel lifted off on 15 July with five passengers, including Mr Boland. Reports from the authorities say it landed back on the ground. One passenger fell out, but was unhurt as the basket flipped over.
However, Mr Boland “became entangled in gear affixed to the balloon as it re-ascended,” said the police. He was then “entrapped underneath the basket, where he eventually fell to the ground from a height”.
“The pilot landed in a field off Waits River Road and was pronounced dead on scene,” a statement from the Vermont State Police read.
The ballon continued moving for approximately 1.5 miles. Eventually, it stopped after becoming tangled in a tree after crossing the border, ending up in New Hampshire. The three passengers still in the ballon were able to safely get away unscathed physically.
At the time of the initial announcement of the incident by authorities, Mr Boldan’s identity was withheld until he could be seen by the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington, according to the statement.
Mr Boland is believed to have more than 40 years of hot air ballooning experience and during that time had become immensely well-respected by his peers.
Robert Willbanks, a fellow hot air ballon enthusiast with a relationship with Mr Boland since the 1970s, expressed his sadness about hearing Mr Boldan’s passing.
“Creative to the end and always willing to share his love of ballooning and the true spirit of lighter than air aviation with anyone who would listen. His Post Mills balloon port was the Mecca of home built experimental ballooning,” he wrote in tribute via Facebook.
Another hot air balloon colleague, David Bristol, paid homage to the “father of the Experimental Balloon Movement” on Facebook.
He wrote, “This man was the father of the Experimental Balloon Movement and he did a lot to promote the sport of Hot Air Ballooning. Brian Boland you will be missed!”
The crash is currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.