The pilot “did a good job of landing the balloon safely in the median," according to local authorities
A hot air balloon made an emergency landing on a Vermont interstate on Wednesday after it was "stalled in flight."
The balloon was being operated by pilot Chris Ritland, who began to land it in Hartford, VT after police were dispatched around 8 p.m. on Interstate 91, when he was "unable to secure a safe landing spot other than the Interstate," according to a release from the Hartford Fire Department.
"While responding to the area, units were advised that the balloon was actually in the area of where Quarry Road passes over the Interstate. The first arriving units reported the balloon to be hovering approximately 30 feet above the roadway," the release notes.
"As additional units were arriving on scene the balloon landed safely in the median just south of the Quarry Road overpass. The balloon pilot kept the balloon inflated until Hartford units had closed down the left passing lane in both the north and southbound directions. Once the lanes were closed the balloon was deflated and pick-up."
Images from the scene shared by the fire department show the balloon sitting in the median of the interstate. Later images feature the balloon beginning to deflate, before local authorities began to take it away.
The department credits Ritland, whoValley News reports was operating the balloon under Quechee Balloon Rides, for doing "a good job of landing the balloon safely in the median and avoiding any issues."
"Traffic remained flowing, restricted to one lane for approximately 20-25 minutes while the balloon was deflated and packed away for transport," the release notes. "No injuries were reported."
Valley News notes that five people — four passengers and the pilot — were aboard the sunset balloon ride. Quechee did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on Thursday morning.
“We had a beautiful balloon flight on Wednesday evening that concluded with a common landing but in an uncommon and unplanned location,” Quechee Balloon Rides said in a statement, per the outlet, noting that Ritland left the Quechee Green around 6 p.m. Wednesday as winds shifted direction.
“The pilot-in-command of the aircraft made a precautionary decision as sunset was nearing to land safely rather than taking unnecessary risk. Our team informed local authorities and officials prior to landing of our intentions so they could assist in ensuring a safe landing” Quechee added.
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One of the four passengers told Valley News that a near-zero wind speed caused the balloon to pause above the North Hartland dam. “We were dropping pretty quickly and burning and burning (propane) fuel and weren’t going anywhere,” the passenger said. “The wind just wasn’t there.”
The unnamed passenger also added that Ritland had them call 911 as his parents were sending up test balloons from a vehicle below, per Valley News. “Chris did amazing in the moment. He stayed calm in the moment. Everything you were supposed to do, he did,” the passenger added.
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