Man Gets Trapped Aloft in Hydrogen Balloon for 2 Days, Traveling 200 Miles

He’s lucky to be alive.

A Chinese man was trapped in an air balloon for two days after it became untethered and floated away with him still in it. Identified only by his last name Hu, the man was apparently collecting pine nuts from a tree in a forest park in Heilongjiang province in northeastern China, when the rope holding the balloon in place came loose. His companion jumped out of the basket and ran for help, but it took another two days, and 200 miles before Hu was saved. Here's what happened.

Harvesting Pine Nuts

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Hu and his companion were using the hydrogen balloon to get access to pine nuts, which are found in pine cones and frequently used in Chinese dishes served in the northeast. Trouble began when the rope holding the balloon in place came loose, and the balloon floated off. Hu's companion jumped out of the balloon in time, but Hu wasn't so lucky.

Emergency Alert

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Hu's friend alerted authorities about Hu's plight, and a search was launched for the man and balloon. Luckily Hu had a cellphone with him at the time, so rescuers were able to contact him and try and establish his whereabouts. Once they knew where he was, they could instruct him on how to get the balloon to come down without causing harm to himself or others.

Deflating the Balloon


Hu was told to slowly allow air out of the balloon so it could come down to safety, but the process took a while: It wasn't until the next day he finally reached the ground 200 miles away from where he was collecting the pine nuts. Hu landed in the Fangzheng region, close to the border with Russia.

Safely Back On the Ground


Hu escaped from his ordeal mostly unscathed. He complained of pain in his back, which officials think might be the result of being forced to stand in the balloon basket for two days straight. An official from the Hailin Forestry Administration Co. confirmed that Hu, who is described as a man in his 40s, was safely recovering in a hospital.

Balloon Disasters


Perhaps the most famous example of someone trapped in a hot air balloon is an incident that likely didn't actually happen: Then-six-year-old Falcon Heene caused a national sensation in 2009 when his father Richard Heene claimed his son was trapped in a runaway hot air balloon. Falcon was later found hiding in the attic of his house. Balloon Boy, as he became known, appeared to throw his father under the bus during a live interview with CNN. "You had said that we did this for a show," he responded when asked why he was hiding. The Heenes deny the balloon incident was a publicity stunt.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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