A pair of Polish hot air balloon racers came under automatic weapons fire in North Texas last week. As they tried to make an emergency landing, their balloon ran into some power lines and burst into flames. Bystanders pulled the two pilots out of the burning balloon, and both are recovering in a Dallas-Fort Worth hospital with burns and broken bones.
The two men were representing the Polish national team in the Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race when it happened. Krzystotf Zapart and Pjotr Halas are both experienced balloon pilots. They told Fox News in Dallas-Fort Worth that the people on the ground may have mistaken them for a Chinese spy balloon.
“We heard more and more automatic guns,” said Zapart. “It was not one shot. It was, ‘Do, do, do, do, do, do!’”
At least four good Samaritans raced to the crash site when the balloon burst into flames. The basket was engulfed in flames as Israel Alfaro, a local English teacher, helped one of the injured racers from the basket.
“The gentleman in the basket couldn’t help us with his weight because his legs were broken,” said Alfaro. “When we pulled him out, we had to drag him through some of the fire.”
Whoever shot at the balloon remains a mystery for now. Since the racers came under automatic weapons fire, it’s possible that drug cartel members operating in Texas could have been the ones who started shooting. We do know, however, that they were over Dallas-Fort Worth airspace when the crash happened.
The Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race takes off from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The winner is usually the team that manages to fly the furthest distance from the launching point. The French team was declared the winner this year after they managed to make it to Jacksonville, North Carolina.