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
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