Record-setting balloonist dies after accident in California

A renowned British balloonist and scientist who set 79 world ballooning records has died following a balloon-related accident in Southern California.

Julian Richard Nott, 74, was injured over the weekend after his balloon with a pressurized cabin landed in the rural Warner Springs area of San Diego County, according to an obituary on his website.

About three hours after the landing, ‘as he was packing up the cabin, it tumbled down the mountain with him inside,’ Roberta Greene, a spokeswoman for Nott’s family, wrote in an email. ‘He sustained multiple head and other injuries.’

Record-breaking balloonist Julian Richard Nott, 74, died on Tuesday following a balloon-related accident that took place on Sunday

Record-breaking balloonist Julian Richard Nott, 74, died on Tuesday following a balloon-related accident that took place on Sunday

Record-breaking balloonist Julian Richard Nott, 74, died on Tuesday following a balloon-related accident that took place on Sunday

His family paid an emotional tribute to him, describing Nott as ‘an exceptionally brilliant man who rejoiced in exploration and adventure. He will be missed but never forgotten.’ 

Lt. Mike Rand of the San Diego County sheriff’s department told Patch that deputies responded to reports that two people were injured after the aircraft landed near Palomar Mountain on Sunday afternoon. 

The occupants had suffered back injuries and one man was dipping in and out of consciousness, Rand said.

Witnesses reported that the balloon’s passenger compartment detached and fell about 150 feet down an embankment.

Witnesses reported that following a successful soft landing the passenger compartment of Nott's balloon detached and fell about 150 feet down an embankment with him and a 64-year-old man inside

Witnesses reported that following a successful soft landing the passenger compartment of Nott's balloon detached and fell about 150 feet down an embankment with him and a 64-year-old man inside

Witnesses reported that following a successful soft landing the passenger compartment of Nott’s balloon detached and fell about 150 feet down an embankment with him and a 64-year-old man inside 

The cabin landed in the near Palomar Mountain in the remote Warner Springs area of San Diego County, California

The cabin landed in the near Palomar Mountain in the remote Warner Springs area of San Diego County, California

The cabin landed in the near Palomar Mountain in the remote Warner Springs area of San Diego County, California 

It took firefighters about an hour to reach the victims in the remote area near Chihuahua Valley Road and state Route 79, NBC San Diego reported.  

Rand told Patch news website that Nott and a 64-year-old man were evacuated from the passenger compartment by sheriff’s helicopter and airlifted out of the area. 

A second helicopter then transported them to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido.  

Nott died on Tuesday at a hospital with his partner of 30 years Anne Luther by his side.

Nott (left) with his friend Ethan hiking on Big Painted Canyon in Mecca, California. He wrote on Facebook: 'My 80th hike of the year... Strenuous but one of my most favorite hikes anywhere'

Nott (left) with his friend Ethan hiking on Big Painted Canyon in Mecca, California. He wrote on Facebook: 'My 80th hike of the year... Strenuous but one of my most favorite hikes anywhere'

Nott (left) with his friend Ethan hiking on Big Painted Canyon in Mecca, California. He wrote on Facebook: ‘My 80th hike of the year… Strenuous but one of my most favorite hikes anywhere’

Nott, pictured in 1988, set a world record for reaching the highest altitude in a hot air balloon - 55,000 feet

Nott, pictured in 1988, set a world record for reaching the highest altitude in a hot air balloon - 55,000 feet

Nott, pictured in 1988, set a world record for reaching the highest altitude in a hot air balloon – 55,000 feet

The condition of the 64-year-old second passenger was not known.

‘Julian was flying an experimental balloon that he invented (and) designed to test high-altitude technology,’ according to his website. The experiment is believed to be for the University of Florida.

He is to be buried at his family’s plot in England.

Mr Nott was the first to pilot a balloon across Australia and the Sahara desert and he flew the world’s first solar-powered balloon across the English Channel.

Known as the father of modern ballooning, he carried out vital research for NASA and the US Navy and was the only balloonist ever elected to the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Mr Nott had already shaken off one near-death experience in 1974 as he was left hanging 45,830 ft off the ground. It came after he had set a new world altitude record by flying at 55,550 ft in a hot-air balloon above India.

‘For a while I just dangled helplessly, holding on to a single line that was certain to come loose at any moment,’ he said later.

‘By the sheerest good fortune, the balloon settled back to earth and I survived.’ 

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum described Julian as ‘a central figure in the expansion of ballooning as an organizer, pilot, and most of all as arguably the leading figure to apply modern science to manned balloon design.’  

Among Nott’s records is reaching an altitude of 55,000 feet in a hot air balloon.

It reportedly took firefighters an hour to reach the two men in their remote location following the accident. They were airlifted to hospital

It reportedly took firefighters an hour to reach the two men in their remote location following the accident. They were airlifted to hospital

It reportedly took firefighters an hour to reach the two men in their remote location following the accident. They were airlifted to hospital 

According to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale – also known as the FAI or the World Air Sports Federation – Nott set a Guinness World Record in 2017, at age 72, for the highest documented tandem skydiving jump, from 31,916 feet.

In 2014, Nott helped Alan Eustace break the record for the world’s highest parachute jump, from an altitude of 135,890 feet. 

The FAI website also lists dozens of Nott’s other world records for feats of altitude, distance and time aloft.

Nott lived in Santa Barbara, California.

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