And From All Indications, Fellow Competitor Chuck Walz Is One
VERY Lucky Guy
The results are in from the 2008 US
National Hot Air Balloon Championship, held last week in Anderson,
SC -- with Joe Heartsill of San Angelo, TX named the overall winner
out of 46 pilots competing in the annual event, which was held
concurrently with Anderson's Great Southeast Balloonfest.
Hampered in the beginning by persistent heavy rains, the
competition was not without some tense moments... one of them very
scary. A spokesman with the Balloon Federation of America tells ANN
balloonist Chuck Walz of Munith, MI was injured Saturday, when his
balloon crashed during the competition.
Witness reports say Walz's balloon suffered a rapid descent from
about 9,000 feet, possibly due to a tear in the hot-air balloon's
envelope. The balloon's gondola impacted a stand of trees about 10
feet from the ground -- quite likely saving Walz's life, though
leaving him with serious injuries.
"The (basket) snapped a branch that was about 10 inches in
diameter," Anderson Fire Department spokesman Adam Zenoni told the
Jackson (SC) Citizen Patriot. "If he hadn't landed in that tree, it
would have been a lot different of an outcome. I don't think he
would have survived without the tree."
Even though he suffered a broken pelvis and a large puncture
wound to his leg, Walz reportedly joked with the medical staff as
they tended to his injuries and prepared him for transport to an
area hospital. Walz hoped to be transported home to Michigan this
week for treatment and recovery from his pelvis injury.
Competition wrapped up Monday, with Heartsill (above) claiming
his fifth national title following wins in 1992, '97, '99, and
2007. Heartsill becomes the Balloon Federation of America's second
most prolific National Champion, as only Bruce Comstock has won
more titles at six.
Heartsill is also only the fifth pilot to win back-to-back
National titles, following Jimmy Craig in the '60's, Bruce Comstock
in the '60s, Al Nels in the 80s and Paul Petrehn in 2004 and
Owen Keown, Steve Jones, Nick Donner and Craig Bradley rounded
out the Top 5. Keown's 2nd place finish also earned him the Duane
C. Clark Memorial Award as the highest ranked senior pilot at 60
years of age or older.
Curves pilot Ron Frusher of Waco, TX finished 7th and took
Rookie of the Year honors. There were a total of 12 rookies in the
46 pilot field.
As for the winner of the organization's Elizabeth J. Domont
Memorial Award for safety... well, it was no contest. The Anderson
Fire Department was the clear winner, for their rescue of Walz.
ZL60 Description: CAMERON BALLOON
Date: 08/31/2008 Time: 1253
Event Type: Accident Highest Injury:
Serious Mid Air: N
City: ANDERSON State: SC Country:
HOT AIR BALLOON LOST ALTITUDE AND CRASHED INTO TREES,
NEAR ANDERSON, SC
INJURY DATA Total
# Crew: 1 Fat:
# Pass: 0 Fat:
Fat: 0 Ser:
WEATHER: KAND 311256Z 04005KT 10SM CLR 24/20 A3011
Activity: Pleasure Phase:
Unknown Operation: OTHER
FAA FSDO: COLUMBIA, SC
Entry date: 09/02/2008