Somerset

Tributes paid to dead balloonists after Somerset crash

Lee Pibworth and Allan Burnett
Image caption Lee Pibworth and Allan Burnett died on New Year's Day

Tributes have been paid to two men who were killed when their hot air balloon crashed in Somerset.

Lee Pibworth, 42, and Allan Burnett, 55, both from Bristol, died when the craft hit the ground in Midsomer Norton on Saturday at about 0930 GMT.

It is thought they had been trying to ascend to 20,000ft (6,096m).

Mr Pibworth's family said: "Lee's passion for ballooning not only brought about his sudden and tragic death, but also his great friend Allan Burnett."

Respected pilot

The statement added: "Lee was a loving husband, father, son and brother.

"He was a well-qualified, skilled and respected pilot and had previously flown in many countries across Europe and also in America.

"He loved the outdoors working as a tree surgeon and spent much of his spare time exercising his four Springer spaniels.

"We can take little comfort from knowing that Lee died doing what he loved doing that was flying.

"His loss has left a big hole in all of our hearts and he will be truly missed by every one that knew him."

Scout group

Allan Burnett's family said: "Allan was a well loved and respected member of the local and wider community of south Bristol.

"Friends, neighbours and colleagues from the many organisations he was involved in, of which the Blenheim Scout Group was his driving passion, were inspired by his dedication, strength and commitment.

Image caption Witnesses said the balloon narrowly missed houses and a nearby school

"His enthusiasm, energy and vision to create a better future for the youth of the area touched many lives, and his death will leave a huge gap in the community."

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is continuing to look into what may have caused the crash.

Witnesses said the balloon narrowly missed a row of terraced houses and a school.

The men were believed to have been attempting a high altitude flight which was being monitored by Bristol Air Traffic Control.

Det Insp Mike Williams, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: "An air crash investigation team are currently looking at the circumstances of this incident to establish the cause.

"We would like to speak to anyone who may have seen the balloon in the air before the incident, or witnessed the balloon come to the ground."

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