Hot air balloon lands on street

Maghera residents awakened to an unexpected visitor as a Gilford man's hot air balloon dropped by.

Maghera residents awakened to an unexpected visitor as a Gilford man's hot air balloon dropped by.

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A Gilford man caused an early morning stir in Co Londonderry when his hot air balloon landed in the middle of a street.

Residents in Maghera couldn’t believe their eyes when they woke up to the unlikely sight during the Sperrins Balloon Festival.

It is understood one of the hot air balloons taking part in the festival ended up slightly off course and landed on a street in the Gortmore area of the town.

Owner Jeff Lawton, who is from Gilford, admitted it was not exactly a scheduled stop, but he said there was never any sense of danger.

“The winds were light and we could see there was a big grassy area so we thought: ‘Right, that’ll work!’

“There were no power lines so we knew it was safe enough,” he told the BBC.

Mr Lawton was in Co Londonderry for the Sperrins Balloon Festival which runs once a year.

He said a number of bemused residents came out of their houses to see what was happening.

“I’m sure it was an unusual sight to wake up to, but they seemed happy enough.”

Patrick Bradley was equally welcoming when a balloon landed on his property, “They landed on a field near my house. We were having a barbecue so I invited them in for a drink and in return, they offered to take me up for a trip the following day.

“I’m actually not great with heights - to be honest,

“I accepted the offer after a few drinks - so I had to psyche myself up for it!

“But they’re very experienced pilots so I was in good hands and really enjoyed it - the view was amazing.”

Jeff Lawton said the conditions for this year’s festival were much better than those of previous years.

“The festival has been running for years now, but sometimes it turns into a bit of a drinking holiday because of the weather.

“This year, we were very lucky - it was fantastic.”