Hot air balloon proposal fails, surfers come to rescue
A hot air balloon carrying a man who had just proposed to his girlfriend drifted into the ocean off the Southern California coast, where daring surfers grabbed a rope to pull the aircraft to shore. (Screenshot from YouTube)
LOS ANGELES - A hot air balloon carrying a man who had just proposed to his girlfriend drifted into the ocean off the Southern California coast, where daring surfers grabbed a rope to pull the aircraft to shore, an official said on Monday.
The newly engaged couple and a pilot were on board the balloon on Sunday evening when the wind switched direction and began pushing it toward the shore of Encinitas, just north of San Diego, said Encinitas Marine Safety Captain Larry Giles.
The basket on the balloon touched down and was struck by breaking waves just offshore from the Cardiff Reef area of Encinitas, Giles said.
The balloon itself, which weighed about 500 pounds (230 kg), remained inflated, but the pilot was running out of fuel for the flame that fills the balloon with hot air, he said, and one of the passengers could not swim.
A lifeguard with a surfboard and another with a jet ski brought the passengers to shore while the pilot stayed with the aircraft, Giles said.
Meanwhile, at least 15 surfers tugged on a rope attached to the basket to bring the hot air balloon and its pilot to shore, he said.
"It was kind of dicey, because a few times the guys hanging on the rope got airborne and were hanging on the rope as they were trying to pull the balloon in," Giles said, adding that the surfers could have been harmed had the balloon deflated and come down on them in the water.
San Diego television station KFMB, a CBS affiliate, showed amateur footage of the balloon slowly drifting down and touching the water, with the sun setting behind it and the craft's flame still lit.
Local media reported the woman, whom they did not name, said yes to the marriage proposal.
The couple's ballooning experience was "unforgettable," Eric Barretto, the man who proposed, told local television station KNSD, an NBC affiliate.
"I don't know if we'll do it again," he told the station.