DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) – It was supposed to be an anniversary gift: a hot air balloon ride. But for Michael and Melonie Lombardi, it turned out to be a nightmare.
They took off from Chatifield Reservoir’s launch pad, which lies about 20 miles south of Denver, Sunday morning.
“We waited 45 minutes. They said, ‘We don’t think the conditions are going to be right. We should reschedule.’ They waited 20 minutes, came back and said, ‘We’re going to go ahead and give it a try,'” Melonie said.
They had no idea the weather was going to be an issue, but just 15 minutes into their ride, they knew something was wrong. The pilot made an announcement they were going to make a hard landing.
The balloon crashed twice near Waterton Canyon.
“I didn’t think we were supposed to go that fast. Didn’t seem right at all,” Michael said. “I say we were going at least 70 miles an hour across the water. Hitting the water was like being dropped from something onto concrete. Going so fast — just an abrupt stop. It was like hitting a brick wall.”
At the same time, just a few miles away, another hot air balloon crashed near the swim beach at Chatfield Reservoir.
“We watched the other balloon go down. We watched one of the passengers tumble out of it, just cartwheel after cartwheel after cartwheel,” Michael said.
“I got pretty nervous, because that’s what we can expect for our landing,” Melonie added.
Not only did the Lombardis hit hard, they say they were submerged underwater for 20-30 seconds. They said they were in the front of the basket as it hit the water, so everyone behind them fell on top of them.
“Everybody’s trying to get to the surface,” Michael said.
The couple drove themselves to the hospital, where Melonie found out she had a broken bone in her wrist and Michael found out he needs to see an orthopedic surgeon to check out his knee.
“Banged up, bruised, bandaged, but we’re alive. Thankful we’re alive,” Melonie said.
They say looking back, they never should have lifted off in the first place.
“It’s a risk no matter which way you look at it when you’re doing something along those lines, but if you have a gut feeling you shouldn’t go, don’t go,” Michael said.
The couple advises others to just take the trip a different time.