'I thought I was going to die': Northampton victim of horrific hot air balloon crash speaks of the moment it hit power lines

A Northampton woman who was left with horrific burns after a hot air balloon she was in crashed into electricity cables has spoken for the first time about the accident.

Friday, 12th May 2017, 10:51 am
Updated Monday, 15th May 2017, 9:26 am
Rebecca Fry
Rebecca Fry

Rebecca Fry, 22, came moments from death after suffering horrific burns to her legs, back and hands when the balloon struck power cables 50ft above the ground.

The collision sent flames shooting across the balloon's basket which then shot 100 feet into the air with Rebecca lying seriously injured on its floor.

Rebecca miraculously survived the incident last May and has spoken about her ordeal for the first time.

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Paramedics at the scene of the accident near Earls Barton

She said: "The basket burst into flames and the intense heat forced the balloon to shoot up, the heat was making it rise.

"I was trying to scream but I couldn't open my mouth as the electricity was pressing my teeth together.

"I looked down at my legs and they looked like cooked chicken because the skin all hanging off.

"My leggings were burnt off and melted into my body.

Rebecca Fry and her partner, Bret

"I thought I was going to die. My body became numb and I thought 'I'm on fire'.

"I could feel electricity going through me and I couldn't see or hear anything, I had no control over my body.

"I was conscious through most of it, I felt as if my neck was going to snap.

Rebecca was a single passenger in the early morning flight which had been bought for her as a present by her fiance.

The balloon after the accident in May last year

The 64-year-old male pilot next to her was not injured.

After crash-landing in a field in Earls Barton, she amazingly managed to call her mum and dad for help, who sent paramedics to the scene.

She was airlifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where she spent four weeks being treated at a specialist burns unit.

But due to the severity of her injuries, nurses had to cut the blisters off her body with scissors before covering her in burns gel.

Paramedics at the scene of the accident near Earls Barton

Rebecca said: "It was so horrific but I knew it had to be done if I wanted to survive.

"They dressed me in bandages and but I was losing around ten litres of fluid a day.

"My parents begged for them to put me in a medically induced coma or at least in an epidural because the pain was so bad.

"A lot of it was just a waiting game while the skin healed. I had a skin graft which helped, but failed on some parts of the skin.

"After that it was just a lot of painkillers and creams."

Rebecca, had been enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime hot air balloon experience when tragedy struck on May 22 last year

Rebecca Fry and her partner, Bret

But halfway through the flight, and moments after taking a selfie to remember the experience, she noticed she was in danger.

"I'd just finished taking a selfie when I noticed we were heading towards what looked like a telephone pole," said Rebecca.

"All I could think about was avoiding it but before I knew it we had crashed.

"All of a sudden an amazing day out turned into a nightmare."

The incident happened at around 7.30am and was witnessed by people visiting a nearby car boot sale.

Steve Tee witnessed the balloon basket hitting power cables near the field and said: "The balloon seemed to struggle to gain the altitude.

"The balloon basket hit the power lines causing it to burst into flames.

"Before this happened I wouldn't even think twice to do anything that has the smallest risk in it.

"Now I even struggle driving, as I know that anything can happen anytime and it's completely out of my control."

Another eyewitness, Ian, said: "We were at the car boot this morning at Whites Nursery and a hot-air balloon came over and there was a lady and gentleman - they were waving at everyone.

"It suddenly disappeared over towards the trees and then burst into flames and over towards the ground."

Thankfully for Rebecca, an air ambulance run by charity MAGPAS was sent to the scene.

The organisation is made up of volunteers who give up their time in the East of England to help save lives.

They flew straight to the scene and covered the burns with specialist dressings and then flew her to hospital, there she had a number of distressing treatments, including a skin graft.

Customer services advisor Rebecca said: ""When I saw that an air ambulance had arrived I knew it was bad.

"I just remember seeing the paramedics put a gel pad on my face to protect my facial burns which quite possibly stopped my face from becoming permanently damaged.

"I cannot thank Magpas air ambulance enough for what they did for me. I truly believe that without them I wouldn't be here today."

Rebecca's boyfriend, Bret Hay, had planned to propose to Rebecca that summer in a hot air balloon, but instead decided to pop the question on New Years' Eve.

He was following the hot air balloon at the time of the tragic incident.

Rebecca said: He got a phone call telling him that there had been a serious incident.

"The next thing I know he is running towards me looking so shocked and upset.

"But when I was in hospital Bret and my parents were there everyday looking after me and supporting me."

A year on, Rebecca is still having ongoing treatment to help cope with the long-lasting trauma.

But she has finally had the chance to thank the man that saved her life - 39-year-old Magpas doctor Rupert Hurry.

Rebecca said: "When Rupert came to the scene, I remember looking into his eyes and feeling safe. I knew if I was going to survive it would have been because of them.

"Things have changed for me, and I have come to accept that. Things that weren't important to me before, are now and I am treasuring every moment of life.

"I just really want to reach out to anyone that has been through a traumatic experience and just let them know it's going to be okay.

"I am still going through treatment to help me come to terms with what has happened and I am getting better.

"I am being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety, but I am just so thankful to be alive."

After seeing Rebecca's miracle recovery, Dr Hurry, who has worked for Magpas for eight years, said: "An incident like this is something that I will never forget and it is so nice to see Rebecca looking so well, it really makes the job worthwhile."

Rebecca and Bret are planning on getting married next year in Italy with their close family and friends.

Magpas Air Ambulance brings crucial lifesaving care by land and air to patients in life-threatening emergencies in the East of England and beyond.

The charity offers pioneering training to doctors and paramedics wishing to specialise in Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine (PHEM), for which the organisation is renowned in the medical world.

Magpas Air Ambulance relies on generous public donations to continue saving lives: www.magpas.org.uk

The balloon after the accident in May last year