Hot air balloon flying over Buford
BUFORD, Ga -- It was a bizarre hit and run crash. But instead of searching for a vehicle police were looking for a flying object.
A hot air balloon crashed into a street light pole on Robert Bell Parkway in Buford Sunday, January 12, 2014. The balloon knocked the pole over into the road before work crews removed it.
"What witnesses described was a hot air balloon actually coming down striking the pole, landing on the ground and then taking off," said Gwinnett County Police Cpl. Jake Smith. ""So what we essentially have is a hit and run committed by a hot air balloon."
Witnesses could only give police a vague description of what hit the pole. "It was described as mostly yellow, with stripes of green, blue and orange," Cpl. Smith said.
For five days police had no idea who the hot air balloon belonged to or who was flying it when the crash occurred. They did have two key pieces of evidence in the mystery after a jogger stopped at the crime scene when she saw police.
Aleta Miller said she was curious when she saw police gathered around the pole. "And I started talking to them and asking hey, what happened?" she said. "And they said a hot air balloon hit this pole."
That's when Aleta Miller remembered she had taken a picture of a hot air balloon with her cell phone weeks ago while running in the same area. She showed the pictures to the witnesses at the light pole. "I showed it to them and they immediately said that's it!"
Gwinnett County Police eventually tracked the balloon to a company called "Balloons over Georgia" and a pilot from that company. It ended a rare mystery. "We don't see a whole lot of hot air balloons in Gwinnett," Cpl. Smith said.
Stacy Rolin, the City of Buford Electric Superintendent, said the cost to replace the pole was approximately $3,000 according to an incident report.
After researching the incident police have turned the investigation over to the Federal Aviation Administration. Cpl. Smith said hit-run laws only cover motor vehicles. He said the crash is an aviation concern.
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