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Balloonist’s fatal fall deemed an accident

Staff Report
Published: 7/26/2021 1:22:02 PM
Modified: 7/26/2021 1:22:05 PM

BURLINGTON — The death of a well-known hot-air balloonist who fell during a balloon mishap earlier this month has been ruled an accident by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

An autopsy found that Brian J. Boland, 72, of Post Mills, died immediately in the fall from blunt force trauma to his head, neck and body, according to a death certificate released Monday by the Vermont Department of Health.

Boland was killed during a hot air balloon ride he was leading with four passengers on July 15. According to Roger Blake, one of the passengers, Boland took off around 6:30 p.m. but an issue with the pilot light caused the balloon to descend rapidly, hitting the ground and ejecting Ellen Blake, one of the passengers and Roger Blake’s spouse. When the balloon hit, Boland got tangled in the ropes underneath the basket, which started to rise again immediately following the crash, Vermont State Police said at the time.

Boland fell around 7:45 p.m. from the ropes and landed in a yard outside of a private home on Waits River Road in Bradford, Vt., where he was pronounced dead. Blake was able to land the hot air balloon safely across the river in Piermont, and none of the four passengers was injured. 

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. In an email Monday, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said the agency has not come to any conclusion on the crash but plans to release a report detailing the facts of the case. 

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