Boys Dangle In Snared Balloon

Sunday was the final day of the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, N.M. It ended in chaos when a Smokey Bear balloon got blown into a radio tower by the wind.

The people in the balloon were Bill Chapel, a 69-year-old pilot, and two boys: 10-year-old Aaron Whitacre of Tucson, Ariz., and 14-year-old Troy Wells of Rio Rancho.

The two boys climbed down the tower, holding on tightly to the tower's interior ladder, and the pilot followed them. No one was injured. The tower is almost 700 feet high. Rescuers met them about 100 feet in the air and transferred them to a utility truck bucket.

The radio tower was shut down and there was about $10,000 worth of damage. The station began broadcasting again Sunday night.

Chapel told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith that once your balloon is caught by a current, there isn't much you can do. He tried to ascend quickly to get over the tower, but it didn't work.

Troy told Smith that he thought the radio tower was tipping over. He said the scariest part was getting out of the basket onto the tower, because he thought the basket would slip and fall.

Troy and Chapel had to coax Aaron out of the basket. After that, Chapel says, "We all gathered our senses and began our descent downward. They were in a little better shape than I was or am. They climbed right down and kept going. We just kept yelling at each other to make sure everybody was OK, and we just continued downward to the last few feet."

When the boys got to the ground, Troy says, "My dad freaked out. Gave me a really long hug."

"My parents just wanted to make sure I was OK," adds Aaron.
  • Tatiana Morales

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