Unplanned balloon trip


Hank Riley
 

Chinese man trapped aloft in hydrogen balloon for 2 days



BEIJING (AP) — Chinese state media say a man has been found safe after he spent two days aloft in a hydrogen balloon, traveling about 320 kilometers (200 miles), after it became untethered and flew away while he was using it to harvest pine nuts from a tree.

The man, identified only by his surname, Hu, and a partner were collecting pine nuts on Sunday in a forest park in Heilongjiang province in northeastern China when they lost control and the balloon sailed off.

The other person jumped to the ground, and a search was launched for the escaped balloon and Hu.

State broadcaster CCTV said rescuers were able to contact the man by cellphone the following morning and instructed him to slowly deflate the balloon to land safely. It took another day before he reached the ground about 320 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast in Fangzheng region, close to the border with Russia.

Hu was in good health, apart from a pain in his lower back, possibly from standing the entire time he was in the air, CCTV said.

An official who gave only his surname, Fu, at the publicity department of the Hailin Forestry Administration Co. on Thursday confirmed the balloon incident and described Hu as being in his 40s. He said Hu was recovering in a hospital but declined to give further details.

Pine nuts are found inside pine cones and are a frequent ingredient in dishes served in the northeast, formerly known as Manchuria.