PASSENGERS in a hot-air balloon that crashed into a 66,000-volt power line on the edge of a lake say they had a lucky escape - on Friday 13th.

The balloon was grabbed by a strong gust of wind as it was about to land in a field near Selby and was dragged 200 yards across a road, through a barbed-wire fence and over an embankment before hitting the cables, leaving the basket lying on its side.

The pilot and nine passengers scrambled to safety and nobody was injured in the accident, which happened in West Haddlesey at about 8.50am yesterday. The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) is now looking into what happened.

Passengers praised 59-year-old pilot John Russell for his handling of the situation.

John Newstead, 61, from Pocklington, taking his first balloon ride after two cancellations, said: “He was fantastic and I think what he did stopped us going into the water - he dealt with it all so well.

“Until we got out, we didn’t realise what had happened because we’d been told to assume landing positions, then the wind lifted us into the cables. It had all been confusing rather than scary, but we were just lucky we stopped where we did.“

Mr Russell said it had been a “lovely” flight until the accident.

He said: “I was about to put down in a field in a 3mph wind, but a 20mph gust just dragged us into the line. No-one was ever in danger. There is no metal in the balloon. No-one was hurt.”

He said it was his first such incident in 25 years of flying, but said: “What day was it? Friday 13th. It makes you wonder.”

Another passenger, Angela Beal of Liversedge, near Bradford, was given the flight as a Christmas present from her children and said: “It was just unfortunate there was a gust of wind, and when we were told to brace ourselves, everything went very quiet and felt a bit surreal.

“The pilot handled it really well, and when it was over we were laughing about it more than anything because of the day it happened. It was an experience, but I think I’ll try something a bit more gentle next time.”

Eye-witness Richard Watson, a Selby garage owner who lives in West Haddlesey, saw the balloon flying over and got in his car because he thought it would be fun to see it land. He was close by when he saw it try to put down in the field. It was then dragged across the road and over the embankment.

“Because of the bank, I could not see it then. But when I got up there I saw it tangled in the power line,” he said.

“No-one in the balloon seemed to move for a couple of minutes then they all crawled out. I saw the pilot try to pull the balloon off the line and then he asked the others to help. They tried for five minutes to get it free but then they gave up.”

The driver of the ground back-up vehicle, who refused to be named, called it a “freak accident”.

Mick Hickling, Northern Powergrid’s head of network repairs, said the incident could have been “very serious”.

He said power on the line between Ferrybridge and Camblesforth tripped at 8.45am but no customers were left without power for more than a few seconds as the supply was automatically rerouted.

Mr Russell and witnesses were interviewed by an AAIB investigator who will submit a report to the Department for Transport.

The balloon was operated by Balloon Rides, which runs Yorkshire flights as a subsidiary of Hampshire-based Adventure Balloons.

A spokeswoman said: "On landing, there was an increase in the surface winds and the balloon caught the wire, but there were no injuries and minor damage to the balloon."

The balloon will need airworthiness tests before it can be used again.