Minnesota family survives wild hot air balloon ride

Mary Stodola and her children went on a hot air balloon ride in New Hampshire to see the sights, but the ride took a turn for the worse. (Mary Stodola)

A family from Mayer, Minnesota visiting the East Coast just wanted to enjoy the fall colors from a hot air balloon, however, things suddenly took a scary turn.    

Cade Zellmann surprised his mom and sister with a hot air balloon ride to look at the fall colors while they visited him in Boston. Their trip into the wild blue yonder turned out to be memorable - just not in the way he had planned.

"A little shook up,” said Zellman. “Wasn't expecting that. Expecting a nice easy ride in the air.”

About a half an hour after they took off near Salem, New Hampshire the pilot tried to land in an open field. A gust of wind pushed the balloon off course and into a couple of tree tops, tearing a small hole in the balloon powering their flight.

"I was like holy cow,” said Mary Stodola, Zellman’s mother. “There's branches flying. There's branches inside the basket. I just want to get down, but I have to stay calm."

For the next 45 minutes, the pilot looked for another safe place to land in the mostly wooded terrain. Meanwhile Stodola, who has a fear of heights, tried to keep her cool in front of her kids.

The hot air balloon eventually came back down to earth in a residential neighborhood, nearly hitting a house, before it landed in the front yard. The wind dragged it into the middle of the street before it came to rest by a little tree.

They rushed to get out before the balloon could take off again.

“Neighbors were coming out helping hold the balloon down,” said Stodola. “It was crazy. It was 30 seconds of ‘Oh my gosh, we're down. We are not going to go back up. We are staying on the ground.’"

Once they were on the ground, Stodola and her daughter shed a few tears.

"It was all these emotions. Fear. Fear of crashing. Everything," she said.

But far from feeling deflated, her family is grateful for the wild ride they will never forget.

"I'm honestly happy this experience happened to us because now I have a story to tell. Definitely a good story,” said Zellman.

“I hope he learned his lesson not to take me on anything concerning heights,” said Stodola. “I'm going to keep my feet on the ground for a while."