Balloonist and property owner tangle

Police needed to be called in to settle a dispute between a property owner and a hot air balloonist.

John Klempner, owner of Okanagan Ballooning, was forced to land in a field near Sexsmith and Longhill roads Monday morning after his aircraft became low on fuel.

Klempner says he thought he had a standing order with the landowner, allowing him to land his balloon in the field.

"We haven't landed there in several years. Obviously the land has changed hands," says Klempner.

Tim Marshall, who owns the 50-acre property, says he noticed the balloon circling and it eventually landed on his property.

"I drove and asked him what he was doing. He told me he had to make an emergency landing," says Marshall.

"I told him I really don't want you to land here. It's going to cost you $100 to land here. He says, I don't have to pay you anything, all I have to do is phone the police. I said fine, I'll lock the gates and you can call your police."

Klempner says he offered to offload his passengers and fly the balloon to an adjacent property where he was allowed to land.

"I said let the Hummer drive out with the passengers and I'll take off and land somewhere else. He (Marshall) said no."

Marshall says he told the police that Klempner had no right to be on his property and while he says police agreed, he says he was told he had no right to hold them there either.

"I said I'm not holding these people here. They can leave and walk to the gate, but they are not taking their vehicle until they pay me for landing in my field. He says you can't do that -- I said why can't I and he said I was holding these people unwillingly."

Marshall said he wasn't holding them. He reiterated they could leave at any time.

"The police officer told me if you don't move that vehicle in five minutes, I'm towing it."

Hot air balloons, like any other aircraft, are licensed and regulated federally.

Klempner says in an emergency, they are able to land anywhere.

He says it's similar to the plane that went down in the farmer's field just north of the airport recently.

"We fly in a safe manner, but we are wind controlled," added Klempner.

"While 98% are happy to see us land anywhere in the area, 1% don't care and 1% gets very angry. Unfortunately today, we got the 1% that gets very angry and we were in a position where we no longer could leave his property."

In the end, Marshall complied with police instructions and allowed the balloonists off his property.

Klempner was in the news Sunday as well when Glenmore residents were concerned his balloon was in trouble before it landed in the parking lot of the Mormon Church on Glenmore Road.

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