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Hot Air Balloonist Who Died In Chester County May Have Had Heart Attack

By Jim Melwert and Dan Wing

SPRING CITY, Pa. (CBS) — The investigation continues into Sunday morning’s death of a hot air balloon pilot in Chester County, Pa.

The hot air balloon landed in East Pikeland Township, near Spring City, in a field along South Wall Street, around 7am.

A passenger on the hot air balloon says as it approached the ground, the pilot reached for a cord and fell out, leaving the passengers to finish landing the balloon.

“The pilot, a 60-year-old male, got trapped between the basket of the balloon and the ground surface, and was dragged along the ground,” says East Pikeland Township police chief James Franciscus.

The passengers jumped out and went to a nearby residence to call 9-1-1. CPR was administered at the scene, but the pilot was pronounced dead after being taken to an area hospital. He was later identified as Jeff Hooten.

A passenger says the pilot may have had a heart attack, as he looked ill shortly before falling out. Adding that Hooten’s attempt to land the balloon with his final breath was a big reason that the 10 passengers onboard survived the incident uninjured.

The balloon was operated by US Hot Air Balloon Company, which is not commenting until an autopsy is completed.

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