Friday, August 19, 2011

Thief takes off with hot air balloon

An American in Quebec for the annual hot air balloon festival has been grounded by a thief.

His truck, balloon and hydraulic lift, valued at around $75,000, were all stolen from his hotel parking lot early Friday morning.

Police are now investigating.

Wes Pittman came from Florida for the international hot air balloon festival in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. this week.

He's been a regular at the festival for the past seven years.

But Pittman said his flying career may be over if his open-cockpit balloon isn't recovered.

"It's just gorgeous," he said. "It's as close as one can be to flying like a bird. I have mixed emotions to go out and find another balloon that I like, have it built. It's a pretty big hassle."

Festival spokeswoman Marie Claude Beauvais said there have been other incidents of hot air balloon theft, but it's not a growing trend.

She hopes others pilots at the festival will get Pittman up in the air one more time before the event ends Sunday.

"It's a very tight community," she said. " I'm sure any pilot will welcome him to be a co-pilot in their balloon."

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