Six injured in hot air balloon crash in New South Wales

Six people have been injured in a hot air balloon crash in the Hunter region on Saturday morning. 

Up to 15 people were on board the hot air balloon when it struck a bush while attempting to land in Cessnock.

The balloon made a hard landing near Camp Road outside Greta, 21 kilometres north of Cessnock.

A 24-year-old woman is being treated for suspected spinal injuries and is in a stable condition. An 80-year-old woman sustained multiple fractures and is in a serious but stable condition. Both are being treated at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. 

Four other people have minor injuries. Two were taken to Maitland Hospital but have been discharged. 

Twenty-six year-old Michael witnessed the crash from one of four other hot air balloons that were trying to land in the strong winds.

Emergency services at the scene of the hot air balloon crash in the Hunter region. Photo: The Singleton Argus

Emergency services at the scene of the hot air balloon crash in the Hunter region. Photo: The Singleton Argus

"You could see them hit the bush and we heard the pilot screaming 'hold on, hold on'," said Michael, who requested that his surname not be published. 

"There was nothing the blue-and-white balloon could have done to avoid the bush. We were worried they would hit the barbed-wire fence running parallel to where they were flying," he said. 

Once the balloon's basket hit the ground, no one got out, Michael said. 

"They didn't seem to want to get out ... we asked our pilot if anyone was injured and he said he didn't know," Michael said. 

Michael said he was in the hot air balloon to see his friend propose to his girlfriend, "and she said yes".

He said hot air balloon staff were talking about the strength of the winds "the whole morning".

"When we were in the air the pilot told us we were flying 90 kilometres an hour," Michael said. 

Their own balloon landed roughly just before the balloon carrying the severely injured passengers, he said. 

"The pilot said our landing was about a seven-and-a-half to eight in terms of hard landings ... a few of us were complaining of whiplash." 

A sudden wind change is believed to be the cause of the incident – and other hot air balloons, which took off from Cessnock, were involved.

The Air Transport Safety Bureau will be conducting an investigation into the incident. In a statement, the Bureau said it would interview the pilot and other witnesses.  

Due to the four-wheel drive access only, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was tasked to the location at 7.30am. Emergency services assisted at the scene, too.

A spokeswoman for Beyond Ballooning - a hot air balloon company that operates in the area - said their pilots made the decision to cancel their flights on Saturday morning.

The company would not disclose the reasons for its cancellation.