An explosion earlier this month grounded a local hot air balloon company. Now, Vegas Balloon Rides is taking to the skies once again. 8 News NOW was on board the company’s first flight Friday.
The crew seemed to sense it was a special occasion.
“Like coming home, it was fantastic,” said pilot Casey Donnelly.
Donnelly suffered burns last week when a propane tank exploded as crews filled a balloon with hot air.
“I got a little bit on my hand, and a little bit on my elbow and just a little bit on my knee below my right leg,” he said.
The explosion sent a large plume of smoke into the skies near the Las Vegas Strip.
“We lost two vans, three trailers. More importantly, we lost three complete balloons, basket, envelope, the whole kit and caboodle,” said Jeff Chatterton with Vegas Balloon Rides.
Less than two weeks after losing nearly everything in that blast, Vegas Balloon Rides took off once again Friday morning.
Company leaders say this is the first time they have experienced a propane explosion since they started 25 years ago.
“It really was the perfect storm. It was hot. It was dry. There were very calm winds, and there was a lot of static electricity in the air,” Chatterton said.
It takes a lot of energy to get a hot air balloon into the air. The average balloon requires 90 gallons of propane to operate. That is the equivalent of more than 350 home barbecue gas grills.
Donnelly, a 20-year veteran, says he couldn’t wait to get back in the air.
“The first step was me getting up with another pilot today and really enjoyed being in the air,” he said.
The official cause of the fire is still undetermined.
Donnelly says his safety training came into play when he noticed flames near the propane. He cleared the area, because he didn’t know if the fire would spread. He says he’s thankful no one else got hurt.