Tributes flood in for ‘awesome’ airline pilot who died in hot air balloon horror crash
Witnesses described the terrifying moment the balloon dropped out of the sky ‘like a stone’ with the pilot, who was ‘very experienced’ and had been ‘ballooning since he was three’ pronounced dead at the scene.
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Tributes have poured in for an “awesome” airline pilot who died after his hot air balloon plunged hundreds of feet to the ground. Peter Gregory was flying over Ombersley in Worcester at 6.20am on Sunday (June 25) when the 25-year-old’s balloon suddenly deflated.
Witnesses watched in horror as the blue balloon plummeted to the ground and became tangled in trees in Ombersley Court. Today his devastated parents paid tribute to Peter - known as ‘Pilot Pete’ - who they described as “driven and determined”.
They said: “Peter Gregory 25 years of living life to the full. On the morning of Sunday 25th June, our Pilot Pete took one last flight, doing what he loved.
“Be it in a hot air balloon or as an Airline Pilot, Peter’s passion for flying was something his family and friends could only admire and support him towards.
“When he set his heart to something, he’d never give up, he was driven and determined, and one could only watch on in awe. We will fly together again soon Pete. We love you. Dan, Mummy, Daddy and Emma.
“During this difficult time, please respect the privacy of friends and family.” Peter’s family, from the Cotswolds, is now being supported by police family liaison officers.
The circumstances surrounding the incident are being invested by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB). Over the weekend hundreds of people enjoyed the first ever Worcester Balloon Festival at the city’s racecourse.
It is understood Peter had not taken part in the festival. Firefighters, paramedics and police rushed to the scene on Sunday morning but were unable to save the male pilot who was declared dead at the scene.
Witnesses described the terrifying moment the balloon suddenly dropped out of the sky “like a stone”. One witness said: “There were lots of balloons in the sky because it was clear and sunny despite being so early.
“Suddenly there was a flash coming from a blue balloon and it just dropped like a stone. My wife heard terrible screaming and then silence.”
Victim was ‘experienced 3rd generation pilot’
A hot air balloon enthusiast and photographer who watched Peter’s first flight in his homemade balloon said: “It was a very new balloon which was hand built in the last year. It’s tragic what happened.
“He was very experienced pilot. I understand his father and grandfather were both hot air balloon pilots. He was a 3rd generation pilot in his family.
“His grandfather had been flying since the 80’s. Ibelieved he has been in ballooning since he was just three-years-old and had his pilot license since he was 18. He finished in the top 18 in the world championships, too.
“The balloon was registered in 2022 and had its first flight in Cheltenham in June 2022. I believe [Peter] was a commercial airline pilot for Ryanair.
“Most of the balloons in this country are made by a handful of balloon manufacturers world-wide, there’s not many that are handmade. It sounded like there was some sort of fire and it caused it to collapse - that’s the biggest risk to ballooning.
“There’s normally a whole load of safety checks before you take off, making sure that there’s no leaks. It’s a bit of a mystery as to what’s happened.
“It was quite windy up near me in Nottingham so I can’t imagine it was ideal flying conditions further south. I’m guessing there must have been some sort of leak.
“Balloon accidents are often very rare, the last was 12 years ago. In 50 years there have only been five or six fatalities. Statistically it’s safer than horse riding.”