Man Survives Harrowing 2-Day Journey In Escaped Nut-Picking Balloon

Man Survives Harrowing 2-Day Journey In Escaped Nut-Picking Balloon

A Chinese pine-nut picker who spent two days floating nearly 200 miles in an escaped hydrogen balloon is back on the ground and safe, according to a report.

The man, identified by state media as Hu, was floating in the tethered balloon to harvest pine nuts from a treetop when the balloon broke free, according to Chinese state media. The frightening incident began Sunday in a forest in the Heilongjiang province in northeastern China. His partner jumped from the balloon as it came unmoored and landed safely, according to the report.

“I almost gave up,” Hu told the Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV. “Thanks to the rescuers, otherwise, I wouldn’t be alive.”

A man who lost control of his hydrogen balloon while harvesting pine nuts in China has been found and rescued — after landing in a forest two days later and more than 186 miles away.

— CNN International (@cnni) September 8, 2022

Hu told interviewers he had been cold and hungry during the ordeal, but he was in good health, apart from a pain in his lower back, CCTV said.

Chinese state media broadcaster CCTV said rescuers reached Hu by cellphone Monday morning and directed him to slowly deflate the balloon to land safely. On Tuesday, he landed about 200 miles northeast, close to the border with Russia where a search team of some 500 local police and firefighters spotted his balloon stuck in a tree, state-run Global Times reported on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Department of the Hailin Forestry Administration on Thursday said that Hu, who is in his 40s, was recovering in a hospital.

Pine nuts are found inside pine cones and are a common ingredient in foods served in the northeast region of China formerly known as Manchuria. Pickers use balloons to reach high into trees and have occasionally suffered mishaps.

In 2019, two pickers in the Changbai mountains reportedly lost control of their balloon and drifted six miles before landing safely. In a 2017 case, a picker vanished near the North Korea border after his balloon broke loose.

The incident brought to mind the 2009 “balloon boy hoax” that occurred when a Colorado family claimed their six-year-old boy had floated away in a helium-filled balloon made to look like a flying saucer. The claim drew national attention as TV coverage showed the balloon floating as high as 7,000 feet while National Guard helicopters and police on the ground pursued it during a 90-minute period.

But when the balloon landed some 50 miles away, the boy was not in it and was later found hiding in his family’s garage attic.