(Riverton, Wyo.) – One of the balloons in this morning’s Riverton Rendezvous Balloon Rally made an emergency landing in front of the Jackson School on North 8th West just before 8 a.m.. There were no injuries. Piloted by Roxie Arnold of Cheyenne, the balloon was coming down for a landing on the grassy activity field behind the school, but the balloon apparently came down faster than expected.
“We were trying to get over the Jackson School, and Roxie had the burner on full blast trying to get lift, but when it became obvious that we wouldn’t make it, she pulled the the main valve on top of the balloon to release the hot air and we came straight down,” said passenger Heather Brown, who was riding in the balloon with her two children, Bailey, 13, and Addison, 8. “We landed right on the street.”
The basket landed on North 8th West next to the curb, and as the envelope deflated, part of it brushed a power line that runs along the side of the street. The impact created a power bump felt across town and some people lost power in the immediate neighborhood, according to residents observing the scene.
“The balloon envelope was scorched and a rope was burned,” said Riverton Fire Department Assistant Chief Scott Walters. Walters was just up the street watching the balloons when he noticed Arnold’s balloon coming down. “She did a super job of avoiding the power line.”
“The kids weren’t scared at all,” Brown said, “It was quite an adventure for them.”
Brown is the daughter of Riverton Mayor Ron and Helen Warpness, who were following the balloon on the ground and were there just after it landed. The Warpness’ sponsored Arnold’s balloon. “The kids are fine,” the mayor said.
Roxie Arnold was the most upset, still shaken and inside the basket after dismantling the propane tank connections and removing the burner. Her husband Ed “Too Tall” was there too assisting.
Balloon Rally officials were on the scene quickly to ensure that everyone was okay.
“Roxie is a real pro, she did just what she needed to do. We’ll sponsor and ride with her and Too Tall again next year,” Helen Warpness said. Arnold is the former Balloonmeister of the annual event.
In the long history of the Rendevous Balloon Rally this is only the second incident of note. Years ago a balloon came down well east of the Wind River toward Gas Hills and was lost for several hours before ground crews spotted it. The riders didn’t have any water, but were none the worse for wear.
Sunday’s balloon launch is just after Sunrise at 6 a.m. at the CWC Activity Field off of Morefeld Avenue on the north side of the campus.