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AVALLON, France. -- In a tragic accident, 23 French school children were killed when sudden high winds blew their hot air balloon into a high-tension power line. The balloon's passenger basket, normally used to carry 8 or fewer adults, was packed with vacationing youngsters. There are no specific legal requirements for how many passengers can be carried in hot air balloons. Apparently, the money-hungry operators of the balloon jammed as many children as they could fit into the doomed balloon.
Alf Erickson, an American balloonist who was in his own balloon in the area of the crash that same evening, said "We almost didn't even get off the ground as the weather folks prophesied a 90% chance of awful skies. But, when the Disney balloon floated by all crammed with school children we took another look at the skies and recalculated our own odds. It turned out to be a very close call; and one that we should have called the other way. An hour into the flight the wind picked up to near gale force.
"The Disney balloon was swept into one of those giant pylon-towers that the French use for transporting vast amounts of electricity from their nuclear generating factories to those little houses in those little villages that are so far away from everywhere."The resulting loss of children was spectacular: sparks, showering shards of flaming stuff, erupting balls of propane ... and more. It was all very ghastly! Fortunately, our own balloon landed with a minimum of bother and no personal inconvenience.
"Later we ordered assorted barbecues and kebabs for our dinner at a little place not far from the smoking ruins of the Disney mistake. The newest member of our chase crew was uncomfortable with this. I guess that he felt we had made an inappropriate choice of post flight relaxation? I mean, what with all the carnage that we had just so recently flown past, maybe we should have directly returned to the hotel. Were we being insensitive? I don't think so."