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Pensioner tells of terror as Virgin hot air balloon with 14 passengers crash-landed in garden of her £700,000 Hampshire country house

  • Virgin hot air balloon set off from Alton in Hampshire early on Saturday morning
  • But 15 minutes in it struggled to gain height and crashed into some trees 
  • Balloon was ripped but the pilot still took damaged balloon to height of 1,200 ft
  • 14 passengers 'thought they were going to die' before it crashed down to earth
  • Helen Bide, 71, was having a cup of tea when huge balloon landed in her garden 

A group of hot air balloon passengers were left fearing for their lives after it crashed landed in someone's garden.

Helen Bide, 71, was at home in Hook, Hampshire on Saturday having her morning cup of tea when the giant balloon came crashing down to earth. 

The 14 fliers had taken off from Alton nearby but the balloon had ripped when the pilot failed to gain enough height and it scraped some trees.

Pilot Steve Richards told the passengers to take up the emergency landing position as the Virgin Balloon Flights customers feared the worst.

Ms Bide gasped as she saw it coming towards her £700,000 home just before 8am.

Virgin Balloon Flights passengers feared for their lives when one of their balloons landed in someone's garden in Hook, Hampshire on Saturday morning (pictured)

Virgin Balloon Flights passengers feared for their lives when one of their balloons landed in someone's garden in Hook, Hampshire on Saturday morning (pictured)

Helen Bide (pictured in her garden), 71, was at home in Hook, Hampshire having her morning cup of tea on Saturday morning when the giant balloon came crashing down to earth

Helen Bide (pictured in her garden), 71, was at home in Hook, Hampshire having her morning cup of tea on Saturday morning when the giant balloon came crashing down to earth

She told MailOnline: 'I was sitting having a cup of tea and listening to the radio on Saturday morning, probably about 7.30 am when I heard the gas from the balloon's burner.

'The balloon was quite low, and then I saw them coming down. I thought 'Oh my goodness!' and then they landed.

'Luckily no one was hurt. The men helped deflate the balloon and the women stayed in the basket to help weigh it down. Apparently there was a tear.'

Passenger Shyam Kakad, 28, said the whole party were 'covered in leaves and twigs' after the balloon collided with 'at least 20 trees' early on in the flight. 

The bank worker from Woking in Surrey told The Sun: 'I thought we were about to die.

'The trip just lurched from one disaster to the next. Virgin advertise as serene and unforgettable — I certainly won't forget it in a hurry. 

'There was a tremendous crashing branches snapping and flying everywhere. We were all covered in leaves and twigs.'

Despite the sizable tear, the balloon eventually reached heights of 1,200ft above a RAF Chinook helicopter base at Odiham, as the passengers clung on. 

The 14 fliers had taken off from Alton nearby but the balloon had ripped when the pilot failed to gain enough height and it scraped some trees
The balloon (pictured) then landed in Ms Bide's garden

The 14 fliers had taken off from Alton nearby but the balloon had ripped when the pilot failed to gain enough height and it scraped some trees. It then landed in Ms Bide's garden

Ms Bide gasped as she saw the balloon coming towards her £700,000 home (pictured) just before 8am on Saturday 

Ms Bide gasped as she saw the balloon coming towards her £700,000 home (pictured) just before 8am on Saturday 

Virgin Air Balloon flights like Saturday's cost £100 a head.

According to the customers, the pilot tried and failed to land the balloon in a field before it came down in Ms Bide's garden.

Virgin was scrambled to the scene to clear up the mess, as neighbours breathed a sigh of relief their houses weren't hit and no one was hurt. 

One told MailOnline: 'I was having breakfast at around 8.00 am with my wife in the conservatory and I heard something and said 'that sounds like a balloon!'

'I went outside and it was. It looked like it was going to land in the field next door and then it ended up in the neighbour's garden. 

'It took a while to come down, probably about half an hour at least.

'The hill we're on is about 500 ft high, so the balloons get a lot closer than you would expect.  

'What I worry about is the baskets, they're heavy and can take out chimney pots and the like!'

Passenger Shyam Kakad, 28, of Wokingham, Surrey (pictured) was on board and 'thought he was going to die' 

Passenger Shyam Kakad, 28, of Wokingham, Surrey (pictured) was on board and 'thought he was going to die' 

Ms Bide's charming house where the balloon landed sits on a sizeable plot of land in the Hampshire countryside, near the town of Hook.

The ivy entwined 1920s property can be found at the end of a meandering drive and boasts around two acres of land and a private tennis court. 

Ms Bide added: 'Virgin sent out a truck and it was all cleared up by about 10am. They haven't offered me a flight, but I don't know if I'd want to go up! 

'The balloon covered up most of the grass when deflated, and was probably 40 metres long.

She continued: 'The balloons come from Alton or Winchfield, and normally try to land when they take off. 

'I think they sometimes have to come down elsewhere if needs be though.

'The farmers don't like them landing in fields as they can destroy a large amount of crops.

'We're used to the helicopters round here, as there are Chinooks based down the road. I wouldn't want one of them to land in my garden though

Pensioner Helen spends her days tending to her impressive garden and was relieved there was minimal damage to it from the incident.

'They moved my bird bath out the way to get the balloon onto the truck, but they put it back afterwards.

'Please don't come back, I'm busy this Saturday!' 

A spokesman for Virgin Balloon flights claim the landing was 'controlled and planned'.

They told MailOnline: 'It was a controlled and planned landing by our highly experienced pilot at the end of a flight.

Pictured: Helen Bide took the drama in her stride and was pleased no one was injured 

Pictured: Helen Bide took the drama in her stride and was pleased no one was injured 

'Hot air balloons travel with the wind and are permitted under aviation law to land, within reason, wherever the pilot sees a suitable space. 

'This is often on private land and, as we did in this case, we always gain permission from the landowner to remove our balloon.

'The homeowner at Saturday's landing spot, while obviously surprised to see our balloon in her garden, was very welcoming and happy to allow our crew access to retrieve it.

'The balloon did fly across an air base but it was with the full knowledge and permission of the RAF, which was kept fully appraised of our pilot's position at all times.

'There appears to have been some misunderstanding on the part of some passengers on the flight as to where hot air balloons are allowed to fly and land. 

'This is something we have liaised with them about since to explain in full.' 

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Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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