Pasco County

Couple celebrating anniversary injured in hot air balloon accident

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) - Hector and Ashley Vega never imagined they would spend their one-year anniversary recovering from injuries after a hot air balloon accident.

The couple was sent to the hospital after a botched landing in Wesley Chapel Saturday morning.

The balloon went down around 8:45 a.m. near the Groves Shopping Center on Oakley Blvd.

According to the sheriff's office, the balloon, piloted by 62-year-old Michael Braun, was approaching a landing spot when the basket hit a power line. The balloon then landed below the power line.

“It was raining electrical sparks on top of us. It was raining," said Hector Vega.

Vega said he warned Braun of the power lines, but the pilot told him "we are going to land over here," and to "prepare for a tough landing." 

"He said, ‘We are going to skim over it,’ and that we would be ok and it did not happen. We ended up going right into it,” Vega said.  

Video obtained by News Channel 8 shows a flash shooting through the balloon. Vega suffered second-degree burns all over his body.

“What I could do? Was pretty much just put my hood over me and cover my wife until I felt my back burning,” Vega said. “My whole back, my buttock area, my legs, the backs of my legs, my shoulder blade has a good five-inch gap of second-degree burns [on it]."

Thankfully, paramedics and other first responders arrived at the scene moments after they hit the ground.  

“People started pulling us out. They pulled my wife out. They pulled me out,” Vega said.

Braun was not injured.

Vega said he has not heard from Braun or his company,  Aerial Adventures of Tampa.  News Channel 8 called the company for comment, but our call went straight to voicemail.  

Vega plans to take legal action, but for now, he's counting his blessings and is thrilled to be at home with his family.

“Always tell the people you love, you love them,” Vega said. “You know, never forget it because you do not know when your time comes. You don't. We just got lucky. We got lucky to live another one.”

The FAA and NTSB have been notified of the incident.

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