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Balloon crash survivor shares story

Updated: 03/23/2014 11:09 PM | Created: 03/23/2014 10:57 PM
By: Jen Samp, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Danny Lovato says he is not only facing a piece of his traumatic past, he is reuniting with an old friend.

“I’m glad I saw it,” he said clearing his throat. “But it’s emotional for me.”

This is the first time he set his eyes on the gondola he was in the day that his life would change forever.

“It’s just the sight of it,” he said. “You think, how did I make it out of this and I have no idea.”

In October 2013, Lovato and his pilot Mark Kilgore were on one of their countless flights at Balloon Fiesta.

FAA reports the wind was too fast and the landing area too small. Their basket crashed into the power lines in Rio Rancho.

12,000 volts of electricity jolted through Lovato's left shoulder down his body and out of the back of his leg catching part of the basket on fire.

Doctor's amputated Lovato's left arm he spent over two months in the ICU with multiple surgeries and is still going through physical therapy.

“The first doctor who looked at me was shaking his head,” Lovato said.

“If the Lord’s hand wasn't on us, neither of us would have been here today,” said Pilot Mark Kilgore.

He says his injuries were minor. After the explosion the pilot still managed to land the balloon upright.

“I had 21 seconds from the time we hit the wires to the explosion,” Kilgore said.

The two are now preparing for their first flight since the crash.

“I remember the good times we had,” Lovato said, “We've been flying for 9 years.”

They are parting with their old memories to make new ones.

“If you keep on going it just gets better and better,” Lovato said. “If you have a good attitude and a good spirit about it than you'll overcome it and it'll be worth it in the end.”

He says his faith, family (including his wife Peggy) and friends have helped him get through.

“I keep looking at the people I met and the good things that I've done and if it took this (points to gondola) to do it,” Lovato said. “Then I'm happy.”

For these two friends it is not just about moving forward, but rising above.

Lovato and Kilgore are now taking their old gondola and giving balloon flight safety talks all around New Mexico.

This weekend they spoke at the Albuquerque Balloon Center Inc. to over 100 balloonist and pilots.

They plan on taking flight in next year's Balloon Fiesta 2014.


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