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16 hurt as hot air balloon crashes into tree in Australia

Sixteen people have been injured after a hot air balloon crashed into a tree, leaving some with broken bones and spinal injuries.

The balloon, carrying a pilot and 24 passengers, landed in a field in the Hunter Valley after hitting a eucalyptus tree.

The Health Department said 16 people were treated in hospital, and 12 of those were discharged.

There were 24 passengers on board with the pilot
Image:
There were 24 passengers on board with the pilot

Police said the patients ranged in age from seven to 38.

Injuries included suspected spinal damage and broken bones, but none were life-threatening, according to an ambulance official.

Professional Ballooning Association of Australia spokesman Damian Crock said the circumstances of the crash would be investigated.

Police were not called on the nation's emergency number
Image:
Police were not called on the nation’s emergency number

The balloon was operated by Balloon Safaris. The company has not yet commented.

According to ABC, police said the balloon had been removed by the time they arrived at the scene, and that emergency services had not been called after the crash.

Instead those hurt were reportedly taken to hospital on the company’s bus.

The patients were taken to hospital by the company's bus
Image:
The patients were taken to hospital by the company’s bus

Inspector Rob Post said he was not aware of any 000 call made.

Michael MacGregor, who was on board with his wife Alex, said it was “down-playing” the incident to call it a “heavy landing”.

He said the pilot had told passengers “brace yourself” as they hit the top of a eucalyptus tree.

The patients were taken to hospital by the company's bus
Image:
The patients were taken to hospital by the company’s bus

He said: “It was all over pretty quick to really worry about it. It was definitely a crash.

“When we hit the ground everyone was quiet and calm and people started to say they were hurt.

“They had to tilt the basket over for one little girl to get out. There were three little girls on board.

“We are happy to be OK.”

People on board started screaming, one passenger said
Image:
People on board started screaming, one passenger said

A early statement from the Hunter Valley Police read: “The balloon crashed about 8.30am today (Friday 30 March 2018) on McDonalds Road, near Broke Road, at Pokolbin.

“Nine people were taken to Cessnock Hospital. Two have since been taken to John Hunter Hospital for further treatment.

“Police from Hunter Valley Police District have commenced inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

“The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has been notified.”

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