Emergency crews are praised for their actions

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A teenage pilot has praised the work of the emergency services who carried out a rescue operation after his hot air balloon crashed into high voltage electricity cables.

Adam Griffiths, 18, of Rushden, was carrying two passengers – one male and one female – in his balloon when it crashed into 132,000 volt electricity cables in a field at Bozeat just after 6pm on Sunday.

Police, firefighters, ambulance crews and electricity company workers were called to the scene, but the rescue operation took five hours as they had to wait for the electricity to be turned off, leaving Mr Griffiths and his passengers trapped in the basket hanging more than 15 metres above the ground.

Mr Griffiths said he knew they’d had a lucky escape.

He said: “I’m just glad everyone managed to get away okay.

“There’s damage, but its replaceable so it’s so, so lucky and happy that everyone managed to get on the ground safely. It was a bit of a freak accident.

“I would like to thank all of the emergency services who helped us.

“There was a lot of them there so I would like to thank everyone who helped and was involved.”

The dramatic series of events unfolded after the balloon crashed into the overhead line.

The alarm was raised by a farmer in Wollaston at about 6.10pm.

Eyewitness Tony Skipper, of Irchester, said: “I saw large balloons pass by. One was very low over the hedge on the Harrold Road outside Bozeat, going past Newlands Farm and heading towards a row of large power lines. Then we were shocked when there was a large white flash, and then flames and brown smoke and the balloon came to a halt. Still inflated, it then wrapped the canopy slowly over the lines as it deflated.”

A spokesman for UK Power Networks said: “The balloon and its basket have been recovered from our power lines. We have inspected our equipment and have found no damage. Two customers, who take their electricity directly from the high voltage network, lost supply when the incident occurred.”

The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch says any investigation into the cause of the collision will be carried out by The British Balloon and Airship Club. A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said it was not uncommon for the regulation of hot air balloons to be devolved.