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Hot air balloon pilot forced to make 'wet landing' near Kanab


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KANAB — A hot air balloon festival in Kanab took a frightening turn for one Utah couple as they headed straight for the water. Luckily, everyone made it back to shore safely.

The couple onboard included KSL photojournalist Matt Newey who shared his experience.

Newey said he and his girlfriend were looking forward to something unique, but they definitely had an experience far greater than what they paid for.

"The weather was looking really good," he said. "They sent up these test balloons."

Early Saturday morning, Matt Newey and Carlie Ann Gallagher were ready for take off during Southern Utah's annual Balloons and Tunes Round Up.

"We took off, then started floating, and there was a couple of balloons ahead of us," he said. "It was gorgeous — one of the most beautiful views. Super pretty."

What came next took the couple's breath away.

"We started coming over this reservoir area," said Newey. "You could kind of feel it. It was like we hit this wall of wind and we just started dropping and descending really quickly, and he's like cranking."

They quickly realized they weren't going to clear the water.

"It's getting pretty windy," said the pilot. "We're going to get wet!"

"Then, it tips over sideways and the whole thing starts filling up with water," said Newey.

"No, no, no! Do not get out, please," yelled the pilot

The couple said the pilot jumped to action, leveling the balloon up and out of the water.

"It all happened so quick," said Gallagher. "All of a sudden, we were really close to the water, and then all of a sudden, my feet and whole body was wet."

"It was ice-cold water," said Newey. "On the shore was ice, we were going through ice. We were chilled to the bone."

Luckily, everyone made it back to the shore safely.

"I never felt like any of our lives were in danger," said Newey. "It was just a funny, weird fluke."

After their unforgettable landing, the couple made plans to attend next year.

"I wouldn't want to land any other way," he said.

"It was a super fun event, I would definitely come again," said Gallagher. "I would ride in a hot air balloon again…. I would do it in a heartbeat."

Hot-air balloon rides are actually considered very safe and low risk. They fall under the regulation of the FAA.

The last major accident was back in 2016 in Texas when a balloon came into contact with power lines, killing 16 people on board.

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