|The balloon crashed into rocks. Pic Hartbeespoort Emergency Rescue Unit|
WHAT A BAD EXPERIENCE FOR THE WOMAN; SEE DETAILS OF THE STORY BELOW.
Mother-of-two Susan Astle suffered severe head injuries when she was thrown from the basket of the balloon as it hit some rocks.
A British mother-of-two has been killed in a hot air balloon crash after what has been described as a “freak” change in weather conditions.
Susan Astle reportedly suffered severe head injuries after she was thrown from the basket of the balloon as it passed over a mountain to land in Mooinooi in South Africa.
The 48-year-old, who was with her husband and two sons at the time, was taken to a nearby hospital in a critical condition, but died from her injuries.
Bill Harrop, who owns the company which organised the trip, told Sky News the balloon was forced to land after it was swept up in sudden high winds.
He said: “The winds were between four and six times what was forecast, they were sustained winds too.
“It seems to have been a whole change in the weather system…it was a freak turn of events.”
He said the winds, which were forecast at five knots, reached up to 30 knots.
As the balloon landed the basket dragged along the ground and hit rocks, throwing Mrs Astle, as well as a young girl and her mother, out.
The child suffered serious injuries and was taken to Netcare Garden City Hospital in Johannesburg. Her mother is in a stable condition at the private hospital.
One passenger said she was “clinging on for dear life” as the balloon came down.
Olivia Denny told News24: “We wanted to land in an open veld, but when we were about to land, the wind just swept us away.
“The wind dragged us through the bushes and rocks before we eventually landed between two trees. We had to hold on for dear life.”
Following the crash the pilot alerted his firm’s operations team, who called the emergency services.
Mr Harrop said: “The pilot did an amazing job and kept his cool.
“He pre-briefed the passengers and made a shallow approach, then operated the rapid deflate system. He mitigated the damage.”
Mr. Harrop added that his firm had been left “devastated” by Mrs. Astle’s death.
He said: “It was shocking. The pilot has been given counselling, as have our operations staff.
“We really want to reach out to the Astle family and their friends, we are distraught by what happened.”
The balloon that crashed was the newest in the company’s fleet and the South African Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the incident.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are supporting the family of a British national who sadly died in South Africa on 25 October.”[SKY NEWS]