The Ryanair pilot who died in a hot air balloon explosion in Worcestershire this weekend explained in a video posted to TikTok before his death how he created the doomed craft in just 15 days.
Peter Gregory, 25, died after his homemade hot air balloon ‘went up like tissue paper’ after a malfunction 280 meters above the village of Ombersley.
The clip, posted by Mr Gregory via his TikTok account ‘flyingpedro’, shows the process the aviation enthusiast went through to build the £4,000 balloon.
In the video, he can be seen sewing more than 270 panels of tent cloth together in a shed.
Mr. Gregory responded to comments posted below the clip by insecure users in an attempt to allay concerns about the craft’s safety.
More than 270 panels of tent cloth were sewn by Mr. Gregory when he was building the craft
Aviation enthusiast responds to concerned commenters on TikTok, allaying fears for balloon safety
The hot air balloon came down yesterday near Ombersley, Worcestershire
One user said, “The bottom part of the balloon cloth, how do you keep it from catching fire?”
The pilot replies by saying that the lower part of the balloon is “made of nomex which is fire retardant” before pointing out that it is made of the same material as drivers.
Another user named EA asked Mr. Gregory how he could “trust” the design process, before responding that the “design and manufacturing process hasn’t changed much in over 100 years!”
Witnesses to the accident said the multicolored craft went up in flames at 6.20am on Sunday morning near Ombersley Court.
One of them said, ‘I told my partner to take a picture because the balloons looked beautiful. Seconds later, one of them caught fire and fell to the ground.
“Once it caught fire, it went up like tissue paper, it burned in about ten seconds. We couldn’t believe it. We thought that from that height there would certainly be a fatality. It fell like a rocket and shook us awake to see.”
Mr. Gregory’s family, who are all expert balloonists, are said to be “devastated” over his death, but take comfort in the fact that he died doing what he loved.
In a tribute released today through the West Mercia Police Department, the family said, “Peter Gregory, 25 years of living life to the fullest.
“On the morning of Sunday, June 25, our pilot Pete took one last flight and did what he loved.
“Whether it was in a hot air balloon or as an airline pilot, Peter’s passion for flying was something his family and friends could only admire and support.”
They added: ‘When he set his mind to something he never gave up, he was driven and determined and you could only watch in awe. Soon we will fly together again Pete. We love you.’
The tribute was signed by ‘Dan, Mum, Dad and Emma’ and asked people to respect the privacy of Peter’s family and friends during ‘this difficult time’.
It’s not yet clear how the craft burst into the fireball, but a hot air balloon enthusiast and photographer who saw Peter’s first flight in his homemade balloon today said: ‘Balloon accidents are often very rare, the last being 12 years ago. In 50 years there have been only five or six fatalities. Statistically, it’s safer than horseback riding.”
Mr. Gregory is seen cutting and stitching the panels in a video posted to his TikTok account last year
Drawings (photo) show the pilot’s thinking when coming up with the design for the craft
The cost of the balloon cost Mr Gregory about £4,000
It took him about 15 days to build the balloon from scratch
The term ‘gores’ refers to the panels that Mr. Gregory made from pieces of tent cloth
It happened on the same weekend as the first Worcester Balloon Festival, although Mr. Gregory’s craft was not involved in the event.
A witness said: ‘There were a lot of balloons in the sky because despite being so early it was clear and sunny.
“Suddenly there was a flash and what looked like a ball of fire came out of a blue balloon and fell like a stone. My wife heard terrible screaming and then silence.
“We called emergency services but had trouble reaching the 999 number because it was off the air.”
The crash was reported to the Air Accident Investigation Branch, which had a team on scene yesterday afternoon.