Man falls to death after dangling from hot air balloon in Israel

× Man falls to death after dangling from hot air balloon in Israel JERUSALEM – An Israeli man fell to his death Thursday while dangling from a hot air balloon over the Mediterranean Sea…

Man falls to death after dangling from hot air balloon in Israel

× Man falls to death after dangling from hot air balloon in Israel

JERUSALEM – An Israeli man fell to his death Thursday while dangling from a hot air balloon over the Mediterranean Sea in southern Israel.

A balloon carrying three passengers floated over Netanya, Tel Aviv’s coastal suburb, shortly before noon local time Thursday when a fourth passenger inexplicably jumped from the balloon. He was engulfed in flames, sending gas canisters shooting into the air.

The other passengers reeled away from the balloon as it exploded in an enormous ball of flames, witnesses said.

“It was like a firework show,” Netanya resident Yehuda, who declined to give his last name, told AFP. “There was a young guy with a wig and he was wearing plastic gloves, standing with his hands in the air and yelling, ‘Help! Help!’ A second balloon hit him, he fell and he lit his fire,” Yehuda said.

Ari Kaleval, a prosecutor who witnessed the incident, told The New York Times he was the first person to react. “I saw the balloon sitting a few meters away from the sea, and there was a young man sitting at the top with his arms out, waving,” Kaleval said.

The man appeared fine when he first jumped off, Kaleval said, but suddenly he disappeared in the air.

A firefighter told The Times that when the balloon burst, it sent debris falling at high speed, apparently flinging the balloon’s occupant into the middle of the water.

“We ran on to the shore and found the victim, who had been thrown as far as 50 meters from the basket of the balloon,” Yonatan Ron-Andino, a fire department spokesman, told The Times.

The Israeli rescue services said they were searching for the balloon’s two remaining passengers. They said a helicopter flew over the area, but the air was thick with smoke, making it hard to find the missing balloon’s occupants.

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