LEWISTON — A hot air balloon pilot involved in a fire in Clinton, Mass., over the weekend has been uninvited from this year’s Great Falls Balloon Festival.

Marketing Director Christina Noonan said that pilot Derald Young of Dixfield-based Damn Yankee Balloons will not bring his Raspberry Ripple balloon to the festival, scheduled for Aug. 15-17.

“Safety is our priority,” Noonan said. “Just having somebody there that’s recently had an incident doesn’t make people feel comfortable. It raises a lot of questions, and we don’t want that overshadowing what we are doing that weekend.”

According to the FAA, four of the seven passengers aboard suffered injuries when the balloon crashed into power lines while attempting to land in a residential neighborhood in Clinton, Mass.

Witnesses, as well as a YouTube video, confirm large explosions as the balloon skirted the tops of trees and descended into the power lines.

Young and his crew are regular fixtures at the Great Falls Balloon Festival. He repurposed one of his old balloons at the 2013 festival to create an attraction for children to walk through.

Noonan said this year’s festival is drawing 17 balloons from as far away as Florida. Balloonists must apply and are vetted by the festival organizers before they are allowed to operate.

“We invite them, and there is a bunch of paperwork they have to submit — balloon inspections, their certification, proof of eligibility to fly — before they can come to our festival,” Noonan said. 

Patrons can buy ride tickets throughout the festival. Balloon pilots are paid $175 per passenger. They have six opportunities to take passengers up in their balloons, depending on the weather — once in the morning and once in the evening for all three days of the event.

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You can see longer versions of the balloon crash on YouTube.


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