On July 19, 2014, Jose Papaleo stepped outside his Clinton, MA apartment to a spectacle. A low flying hot air balloon was passing through his neighborhood.
But Papaleo’s initial reaction was mixed, almost as if hot air balloons were a normal sighting in his city.
“I hope they don’t land on my job!” joked Papaleo as the massive balloon approached from the distance.
At 0:26, the aire of excitement turned to a nervous energy, gaining the attention of a nearby police officer who noticed the obvious danger of the situation. But the vibe would change yet again as the hot air balloon and its 5 passengers cruised overhead, cheering to Papaleo and the police cruiser below, all while filming every moment of their own temporary fame.
But less than a minute later, the demeanor of the spectators would take a stark turn. The hot air balloon was dropping quickly in altitude. The pilot had lost control.
Desperate to elevate the floating death trap, the pilot somehow managed to avoid an oncoming tree. But unfortunately, the balloon wouldn’t fare as well when faced with a sprawling set of power lines blocking its path. Collision was imminent. Papaleo and other spectators conveyed the terror of the situation from a distance. A terror that must have only paled in comparison to those in the basket.
The balloon’s impact resulted in a radical burst of sight and sound, with police arriving quick to the scene. But perhaps they arrived a bit too quick. By waiting a few seconds more, the officer would have avoided a blown transformer on the power line above, a delayed explosion that would rattle bystanders and cause a neighborhood blackout.
Miraculously all five passengers will survive and are receiving hospitalization for their injuries.
Early reports have surfaced stating that the pilot was attempting to land the hot air balloon in the back yard of a nearby house when the crash occurred.
While a hot air balloon in a residential neighborhood might sound strange, witnesses recognizing the flashy balloon have surfaced from around the web, sharing their stories which point toward a spotty safety record.
YouTuber pamjular recalls a past run-in she had with the balloon.
“This balloon made a landing at our courtyard in Fountainhead Apartments Westborough,, not sure why… We see this balloon pretty regularly in summer. We saw it yesterday also.”
Perhaps even more astonishing was an encounter reported by Robin May over a year ago on her Facebook page. Not only did she spot the balloon flying at an alarmingly low altitude, but she recounted the pilot’s cocky refusal to fly higher as instructed by a concerned policeman from the ground.
Thriving from the significant attention within his community, it seems the pilot made a habit of reckless flying despite the warnings from virtually everyone. Needless to say, the hot air balloon captain’s luck finally caught up with him.
The storied history of this balloon and it’s pilot demonstrates the perils of human narcissism and their greater impact on society. With his consistently illogical actions, a thrill-seeking novice puts himself, his passengers, and his community at risk of danger.
In one man’s quest for the ultimate form of human attention, he receives it: medical attention. But something tells me this won’t keep him grounded for long.