Beachgoers were treated to quite a spectacle yesterday when a balloon vendor on Blackpool Beach became the latest victim of the Slowing’s weird and wonderful side effects.
Bobby O’Rourke, 74, whose family have been selling helium balloons at the famous seaside town for three generations, found himself taking an unscheduled flight yesterday afternoon.
‘He wasn’t carrying an especially large bunch,’ said his son, Daniel, 42. ‘One minute he was there, the next he’s floating out above the beach. Thankfully the wind wasn’t going the other way. Imagine if he’d got tangled in the Tower!’
Passers-by described how the elderly man clung on for dear life as the novelty balloons swept him away. ‘We shouted at him to let go,’ said one eye-witness, ‘but he was terrified. He held on tight and up, up and away he went.’
O’Rourke was lucky that an RNLI Sea King helicopter was on manoeuvres in the vicinity.
‘It was a tricky job,’ said pilot, Lt. Col. Bodkin. ‘We were able to get the aircraft within range, though we had to be careful the rotors didn’t hit the balloons – that would have been disastrous! Obviously, search and rescue craft don’t carry weapons, but we managed to shoot a flare-gun through the edge of the cluster [of balloons], popping a few of them. The old man landed with a bit of a splash, but we think he’ll be ok!’