The Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston/Auburn has rescinded its invitation to a Maine-based pilot whose hot air balloon crashed into power lines in a Massachusetts neighborhood Saturday, burning several passengers and cutting off power to hundreds.
Derald Young, the owner of Damn Yankee Balloons in Dixfield, has been a regular pilot in the festival for years, said Christina Noonan, a member of the festival’s board of directors.
Noonan said the board has a policy that any pilot involved in an accident that is under investigation cannot fly in the festival. She expects that will be the case when this year’s event is held Aug. 15-17.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash that occurred at 7:40 p.m. Saturday as the balloon was attempting to land in a residential area in Clinton, Massachusetts. There was an explosion when the balloon hit the power lines, and several passengers, who were celebrating a birthday aboard the balloon called “Raspberry Ripple,” suffered burns, two of them serious, according to media reports.
The FAA would not release information about the people on board, but The Item, a newspaper in Clinton, reported that Young was among the six passengers, five of whom were injured and have since been released from the hospital.
Young, who is listed on the FAA registry as the owner of the balloon in the crash, did not return a message left on his cell phone Monday.
Video footage from witnesses on the ground shows the passengers smiling and waving just before the crash, and then sparks and an explosion after the balloon struck the power lines and sank to the ground near houses and a road.
Young, a naval flight officer, got into flying hot air balloons after seeing his first one in 1971, according to a biography on the website for Damn Yankee Balloons, which offers balloon rides and aerial advertising.
Young was the first person to make the 13-mile trek over Canada’s Northumberland Strait in a hot-air balloon in 1985. Since then, he has flown more than 3,000 hours in 10 states and six Canadian provinces, the site says.
Damn Yankee Balloons is also scheduled to participate in the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest in Presque Isle on Aug. 21-24, the website says.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: