There was a dramatic rescue on Okanagan Lake on Sunday that involved two Penticton residents.
John Klempner, from Kelowna-based Okanagan Ballooning, was unable to overcome a sudden change in wind direction at about 9 a.m. and was forced over Okanagan Lake at Killiney Beach.
“On land there are more obstacles — power lines, trees and houses. On the lake, there are no obstacles and it’s easier to control the situation,” said Joy Klempner, John’s wife.
As soon as word came that the balloon was going over water, two boats were commandeered.
“There were no issues of safety. We have a clear safety protocol,” said Joy Klempner.
“The (four) passengers climbed out of the basket into the boat. There were no injuries, no problems.”
It was hoped John could then get the balloon to Vernon but he didn’t have enough fuel so a decision was made to land on the water.
Several boaters initiated a rescue and members of the North Westside department also jumped into action.
The department’s fire boat met the Kelowna Fire Department vessel on the water and attempted to drag the submerged balloon to shore.
“The balloon was too heavy and started to sink Kelowna’s boat,” said Jason Satterthwaite, North Westside fire chief.
“North Westside’s marine boat was able to recover the balloons basket and bring it to shore. Local resident Paul Harpnick and his daughter Geogria helped unload the basket and transport it for the pilot.”
The balloon was eventually pulled from the scene by a shrimp boat.
It’s not known if there is extensive damage done to the balloon.
“An aircraft engineer will have to inspect it. We will then determine if we fix it or order a new one,” said Joy Klempner.
“Our first priority was our people. We got everyone off and the equipment. It (balloon) is just fabric.”
The passengers from North Vancouver and Penticton apparently enjoyed the experience.
“They were so excited and were watching the news video,” said Joy Klempner, who wants to thank the fire departments and boaters who provided assistance.
“Every person we encountered was so helpful. The outpouring of compassion was amazing.”