A man who lost control of his hydrogen balloon while harvesting pine nuts in China has been found and rescued – after landing in a forest two days later and more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) away.
The man, surnamed Hu, was working alongside a colleague in Hailin county, Heilongjiang province, on Sunday when they lost control of the ball. While his colleague was jumping to safety, Hu missed his chance and walked away.
He was not found until 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday when – after tracing his mobile phone signal – a rescue team of more than 500 local police and firefighters spotted his balloon stuck in a tree, according to the Global Times. reported Wednesday.
“I almost gave up,” Hu told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. “Thank you to the rescuers, otherwise I wouldn’t be alive.”
Hu told investigators he felt cold and hungry during the ordeal. However, he was largely unharmed, suffering what were described as minor waist injuries.
The use of hydrogen or helium balloons to harvest pine nuts has become more common in China in recent years and there are occasional reports of harvesters being blown away – but not usually as far as Hu.
In 2019, two men picking pine cones in the mountains of Changbai in China reportedly lost control of their balloon and drifted 10 kilometers (6 miles) – before landing safely and being arrested for violating the aviation regulations. In another case, in 2017, a nut picker went missing near the North Korean border after his balloon broke loose.
Even without out-of-control balloons, harvesting pine nuts in China can be a dangerous business. Traditionally, pickers wearing spiked shoes climb trees – which can reach 20 meters (about 65 feet) – and falls can be deadly.