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Pilot ID’d in fatal Upper Valley hot air balloon accident

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 9:59 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 9:16 AM EDT
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BRADFORD, Vt. (WCAX) - A veteran hot air balloon pilot fell to his death in the Upper Valley Thursday while several other passengers were still on board.

Brian Boland was often spotted flying high above the Upper Valley in his hot air balloons. Thursday evening, the Post Mills man was killed doing what he loved.

“Brian is supposed to be one of the best balloonists in the world,” said Chuck Solger, who watched his neighbor launch his balloon Thursday as he had on countless other occasions.

WCAX visited with Boland several times over the years. He’s one of the region’s best-known balloonists. Solger was shocked to learn that Thursday’s flight would be Boland’s last. “To hear this... and such a terrible way to die. My God,” Solger said.

According to Vermont State Police, Boland and four other passengers took off from his Post Mills home Thursday afternoon. Some time later, the balloon began to descend and briefly touched down in a field. When it hit the ground, the basket tipped and a passenger fell out. Police say Boland then became entangled underneath the basket as the balloon once again took flight. The 72-year-old then fell to his death. The balloon continued north, crossed the Connecticut River, and eventually got caught in a grove of trees in Piermont, New Hampshire. The three remaining passengers were able to climb down safely.

Solger said Boland was an eclectic person who was generous with his time. “I can remember one time being at a car show in Stowe and Brian was up there giving balloon rides for nothing,” he said.

“Little did I know it was going to take over my life,” Boland told us in 2015. Over his decades-long flying career, his passion for hot air ballooning was something he was always trying to share with others. “This neat thing, bringing a balloon to kids that have never seen such a thing in their life,” Boland said in 2013.

No further details about the accident are being released at this time. The National Transportation Safety Board, and the FAA are continuing to investigate.

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