Crash victim had ties to Steamboat Springs
Man was Balloon Rodeo participant
November 18, 2007
Steamboat Springs — A man who died in a hot air balloon crash Friday morning in Iowa was a frequent visitor to Steamboat Springs and a longtime participant in the annual Hot Air Balloon Rodeo.
Dr. Thomas Boylan, 62, an osteopath from Fort Collins, died at the scene of the crash, which occurred at about 9:15 a.m. Friday after Boylan’s helium-powered balloon struck a power line about three miles southwest of Coulter, Iowa. The balloon and the basket separated and the basket fell 60 feet to the ground, Franklin County Sheriff Larry Richtsmeier said. Bradley Brookhart, 37, of Littleton, also died at the scene. Doug Chaplin, 58, of Albuquerque, N.M., was taken by helicopter to a hospital about 35 miles away, authorities said. He was listed in fair condition Friday night at a hospital in Mason City, Iowa.
The balloon had initially launched Wednesday in Greeley, about 700 miles away.
Ellen Campbell, a part-time Steamboat Springs resident who also lives in California, said she was “a dear friend” of Boylan.
“As far as I know, he has been flying balloons for over 20 years and is a member of the Balloon Federation of America,” Campbell said. “Tom and (his wife) Margo always looked forward to coming to Steamboat, not only to fly their balloon but to enjoy all that Steamboat has to offer. They often played golf : at Catamount (Ranch & Club) and at Haymaker (Golf Course). They loved tubing down the Yampa and riding bikes. Tom was quite the fisherman as well. He was a great outdoor enthusiast.”
Shannon White, co-owner of Mountain Breeze Ballooning in Fort Collins, told The Coloradoan that Boylan was an excellent pilot who was respected and willing to help others.
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Ian Cox of Wild West Balloon Adventures in Steamboat could not be reached Sunday.
Campbell confirmed Boylan’s skills and experience as a pilot, but said he may have been less familiar with the balloon that crashed Friday.
“He’s been flying for years and years,” she said. “They were trying to set a record I guess, in trying to fly in a smaller helium balloon : he’s always used propane as long as I’ve known him.”
Campbell said Boylan was a charismatic participant in Steamboat’s annual balloon rodeo, and frequently took passengers into the sky above the Yampa Valley. Campbell said Boylan had a ritual for “christening” first-time balloon passengers.
“He would gather those around and tell the history of hot air balloons with the first launch by the French in 1783,” she said. “He would have cups of champagne : on the ground in front of the participant who was kneeling with hands behind their backs, picking up the cup with their mouth. As he was having them drink the champagne, Margo would be behind them pouring a little over their head. So the christening goes. Then, Tom would pin a little hot air balloon on each of them with congratulations.”
Boylan especially enjoyed giving rides to young people, Campbell said.
“He wanted the younger generation to get involved in ballooning to keep it alive for generations to come,” Campbell said. “He was truly a wonderful man and lived life to the fullest.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.