Balloon trek ends in crash

Rescue officials are working to recover a gas balloon from woods near the Quebec-Labrador border after a record-shattering balloon odyssey across the continent ended in an emergency landing in the remote region.

Joe Power, fire chief of the Labrador City Fire Rescue, said Thursday attempts are underway to free the balloon from an isolated ridge about a kilometre from Lake Lorraine.

Two Swiss pilots taking part in a distance race landed near the northern Quebec border after travelling 3,666 kilometres from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Power said when he received a call from Switzerland Tuesday morning about the emergency landing, he thought it was a prank.

"I didn't know if it was serious. We're in Labrador and this time of year we're getting a little bit of snow," he said Thursday. "It's not like you see a balloon here in the sky even in July."

After confirming the unexpected landing with the America's Challenge race marshal, Power said the fire department worked quickly with the province, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and officials at the nearby Wabush mine to co-ordinate a rescue.

"They had a satellite phone so I was in contact with them to let them know what we were doing," he said. "There are no roads and it's a pretty heavily wooded area. We decided a helicopter was the best option."

The Swiss pilots were rescued by helicopter Tuesday morning but recovering the large air balloon has proven more difficult, he said.

"We're trying to help retrieve their balloon now," he said. "They've got a crew here with them."

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