Balloon Pilot Says He Was Blown From Basket

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A Canadian balloon pilot criticized by a passenger for being among the first out of burning balloon basket says he was blown out by what he suspects was the ignition of a fuel leak. Two people died and 11, including Pennock, were injured in the accident last week near Vancouver, B.C. Pennock was criticized by passenger Darlene Rutledge, who jumped 50 feet from the burning basket and questioned why the pilot was among the first out. She spoke with reporters from the hospital where she was recovering from burns and broken bones in her feet. In a story in the Vancouver Sun, Wednesday, pilot Steve Pennock says he remembers being thrown from the cockpit of the balloon after an explosion on board. He told the Sun he was thrown to the ground and temporarily immobilized. "I was blinded and stunned," he said. "I couldn't see or do anything I was basically disabled. I was shocked and stunned on the ground." Pennock said that once he was able, he helped get others out of the balloon but the fire burned through the tethers and it shot into the air. The basket, with Shannon Knackstedt and her grown daughter Gemma shot into the air before dropping from 400 feet into an RV park. Pennock said his actions were by the book. "I did exactly what would have been called for," he told the Sun. "I asked people to evacuate. The main concern is to get people out." Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board are investigating.