One of the more exciting things to happen at Sun-N-Fun this year was the crash at the balloon launch Saturday morning. It all started when one of the balloons took off. I don't think he'd built up enough heat in the air inside the balloon before they took off. They didn't rise very quickly, just sort of drifting along a few feet from the ground. Those of us on the ground were about to duck as he came towards us. The guy in the picture above isn't giving them the thumbs up because of approval, he's telling them to go up.
When the balloon went over my head, I was looking straight up into the balloon itself. It was so close this was as wide as I could get.
This is without a telephoto lens. They were right there. Those of us on the ground were yelling at them to go up, and they were yelling back that they were aiming for the control tower. We just assumed they were joking.
It turns out they weren't joking. The perspective isn't playing tricks on your eyes in this photo. They really were heading into the temporary control tower. You can't tell here but the eyes on some of the folks in that tower were big as saucers at this point.
At what seemed to us on the ground like the last possible minute, the pilot hit the burner for a good long lick and the balloon began to lift suddenly. Note the mast sticking up from the control tower behind the basket. See that little red light on the top of it?
Notice how the little red light is now gone? Sure enough, they got enough lift to clear the tower, but they smacked the antenna hard enough to dislodge the light.
The light fell to the ground, bouncing off the top of that port-a-potty.
And landing safely on the ground. I kept watching during the day, but they never did put it back up.
The guys in the balloon seemed to think it was pretty funny, but I don't think the folks in the control tower took it too well.