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WORLD: International balloon race competitors crash land in northwestern Ontario (6 photos)

Two men from France survived with cuts and bruises

ATIKOKAN, Ont. — Two balloonists from France suffered minor cuts and bruises when their gas-filled balloon was forced down Wednesday afternoon east of Atikokan.

The duo was competing in America's Challenge 2019, one of the world's two premier distance races for gas balloons.

Competitors use hydrogen rather than hot air to stay aloft.

Nine teams took to the air Monday night in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Benoit Peterle and Benoit Pelard of France were in the lead on Wednesday when a gust of wind caught the balloon over the Atikokan area.

"They tried to climb but the valve wasn't working properly so they ended up crashing," Atikokan Fire Rescue Chief Graham Warburton told Tbnewswatch.

Warburton said the fire service and OPP both responded after the duo used a cell phone to call 911.

The crash site is about 22 kilometres from Atikokan, near Highway 623 in the Sapawe area.

The fire chief said Peterle and Pelard were "very smart" to call for help because although they had a GPS unit, they were in the forest, two kilometres from the closest road.

"They were not comfortable heading out into the bush, because they could have got lost. On our initial contact we could see they were fine, just a couple of cuts and bruises. We just guided them out and carried their equipment out. OPP were with us. They were a great help."

All nine balloons were carried by the wind in a northeasterly direction from New Mexico to northwestern Ontario.

Peterle and Pelard ended up in third place.

Another French team finished the race in second place after landing near Gull Bay, west of Lake Nipigon.

The winning team, crewed by an American and a Pole, passed over Wabakimi Provincial Park and landed Thursday morning west of Attawapiskat near James Bay.



Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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