GALT — A man was taken to a local hospital for injuries this weekend when the balloon he was piloting suddenly crashed to the ground.

The Cosumnes Fire Department responded to the crash at the Galt Balloon Festival at about 8:39 a.m. Saturday, according to Chief Mike McLaughlin.

Upon arrival, McLaughlin said firefighters found the balloon in a field adjacent to the event, which was held at the McFarland Living History Ranch at 8899 Orr Road.

McLaughlin said the balloon was a ride attraction tethered to the ground and not part of the main festivities.

The balloon apparently caught fire, became untethered and then crashed to the ground, he said.

“There was some sort of malfunction with the mechanism,” he said. “We don’t know if that malfunction led to the fire, or if the fire was the cause of the malfunction at this point.”

The only occupant of the balloon was the pilot, and he suffered non-critical injuries, McLaughlin said. The pilot was taken to a local hospital for treatment, he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday said a preliminary investigation found the balloon caught fire as the pilot was deflating it. The balloon then drifted about a quarter-mile northeast before crashing, the agency said.

Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA’s Pacific Division, said the agency and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.

He said the NTSB is the lead agency in the investigation, and it takes more than a year to determine a more probable cause of an accident.

The pilot’s name has not been released by investigators.

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