Huntley Police Chief John Perkins said Wednesday a hot-air balloon pilot's decision to land in a residential neighborhood was "irresponsible" and could result in penalties for the pilot.
The balloon carrying four people took off from a Hampshire airport and landed at 7:27 a.m. Tuesday in the middle of an intersection at Songbird Lane and Windy Prairie Drive in the Sun City senior living community.
Contact information ( * required )
Authorities initially were told the balloon was forced down due to heavy winds blowing the craft near high-tension power lines near Interstate 90.
Chad Morin refuted that Tuesday evening, saying the landing was planned.
If the landing was intentional, then the pilot is at fault for causing a disruption that led area residents to call authorities assuming it was an emergency landing, Perkins said.
"He was either very irresponsible for putting it down in a residential neighborhood or there was a safety problem," Perkins said. "If we believe that he brought that (balloon) down intentionally, I would have to pursue charges."
Morin, 37, of Marengo, Wednesday insisted it wasn't an emergency landing.
"I landed in a safe area," said the commercial hot-air balloon pilot and owner of Nostalgia Ballooning, which runs flights out of the Hampshire and Huntley areas.
Perkins said Morin's claim seems false because of eyewitness reports.
"He originally put down on the south side of I-90, southwest of Huntley, Perkins said. "He came back up, crossed the interstate, and within just a few minutes he was back down on the ground. It's extremely unusual and it generated a lot of 9-1-1 calls. We respond to it as an emergency."
A balloon can land where appropriate during an emergency landing and the pilot would not face any penalties.
Perkins said he would consult with the Federal Aviation Administration to determine if Morin was at fault.
"It was a closed case as far as we were concerned, (but) if there's charges justified, we may just have to go that route," he added.
Morin said he has broken no laws.
"What I did was completely legal," Morin said. "Any FAA authority will agree with that."
Perkins said some towns have ordinances prohibiting hot-air balloons from landing there unless necessitated by an emergency.
"We may have to look into that as well in our town," he added.