'Mayhem' in Northampton as hot-air balloon lands in street

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Media captionIan Callaghan of Digital Torque filmed Matt Rate land his hot air balloon in a Northampton street

A hot-air balloon pilot has told how he "caused mayhem" after he was forced to land in the middle of a street.

The balloon was brought down by Matt Rate in Hilldrop Road, Northampton, on Friday evening.

Mr Rate said the wind had suddenly dropped and if he had left the landing any later he could have come down over the town centre.

"It was the safest option at the time," he said. Both Mr Rate and his two passengers were unharmed.

"I told the two passengers 'it is going to be tricky' and to trust me. I think people were a bit shocked that I got the balloon down into such a tight shape."

Image copyright Matt Rate
Image caption Pilot Matt Rate had tried landing in a nearby park before coming down in a Northampton street

Mr Rate had called his ground-based crew to let them know about the lack of wind and what he was planning to do.

Before coming down in the street he tried landing in a nearby park. But as he was descending he realised he was at risk of striking a tree and decided to pull up and find an alternative landing site.

As he came towards Hilldrop Road, his ground team sectioned off an area of the road to traffic.

'Lamp-post obstacle'

Image copyright Meg Coulson
Image caption Matt Rate says he was forced to land his hot-air balloon in a Northampton street because of a lack of wind

"The only control you have is up and down," said Mr Rate, who first got into ballooning at the age of 10 or 11.

"In a way this was the same as any other landing. You have to compose yourself and not damage anything - you have to have that heightened awareness and be completely on the ball."

The main obstacles in the Hilldrop Road landing were people's homes and a lamp-post.

Once he landed, residents in the area helped him fold up the balloon's envelope.

A police spokeswoman said they were alerted shortly before 21:00 BST by members of the public who had seen the balloon come down.

"Officers attended and it was established there had been no accident," said the spokeswoman. "The balloon had just landed in an unexpected spot."

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