The boy who survived an accidental hot air balloon flight in 1964

In response to the boy-in-a-hot-air-balloon fiasco of last week, SFGate has a story about a contractor in Marin who really did get whisked off by a hot air balloon 45 years ago.
In 1964, (Dan) Nowell was a skinny 11-year-old who volunteered to help launch a hot air balloon in Mill Valley. But when the balloon abruptly lifted off, his fingers became entangled in the rope. As a horrified crowd of 200 spectators watched, the sixth-grader from Tamalpais Valley Elementary School was hoisted 3,000 feet into the air. ...As his feet flew off the ground, one of his father's friends grabbed his legs and tried pulling him down. The yank wasn't strong enough to bring the balloon back, but it did cinch the rope tightly around four fingers of his hand. ...Nowell says it hurt so much he was trying to reach his pocketknife, thinking he would cut the rope, even if it meant dropping from the sky.
Lucky for Nowell, he was able to get the attention of the balloon's pilot (there was one, he was just unaware that there was a kid hanging from it) and he landed relatively safely on a nearby plum tree. There's a picture of him in mid-air here. Bay area's balloon boy scaled heights of fame


  1. That picture is ridiculous. It looks like the entire balloon is tilted over. It must just be a trick of the angle because otherwise I can’t imagine how the balloon operator wouldn’t see him or at least notice something was very wrong.

    Still, what an awesome story to tell your kids. :)

  2. We had an incident in the Twin Cities, I’m told, some years before I moved here. The Vikings were playing the old Met Stadium (where Maul of America is located now), and an eleven year old was hoisted above the field in a balloon held by his folks; he was part of a family that did hot air balloon events around the upper Midwest. The kid’s rope broke, and he flew to the southwest, high over Bloomington and the Minnesota River. He knew enough to pull the release vent when he disappeared in a cloud, but when he dropped back out, he was heading for the river. He landed on the ice, where he was photographed by a guy doing wildlife photos, before the guy finally dropped the camera and helped the kid off the ice. His folks caught up with him some time later.
    Link at here:

  3. “…Nowell says it hurt so much he was trying to reach his pocketknife, thinking he would cut the rope, even if it meant dropping from the sky.”

    OMG!!!! A kid with a pocketknife, alert the authorities, suspend him from school and send him to reform school for 90 days. Arrest his parents for child endangerment and abuse. Photos and update at 5!


  4. Poor Tombo! (Miyazaki fans will get this.) Anyone who’s seen Kiki’s Delivery Service had to be thinking the same thing last week…

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