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Nebraska woman killed in hot air balloon accident

August 7, 2018

A former area educator who died in a hot-air-balloon accident over the weekend in Colorado was fondly remembered by her peers this week.

Dana Joyce Haskell, 73, of Columbus, was severely injured when the balloon “did a hard landing,” according to a released statement from the Park County Emergency Management Office via Twitter.

The hot air balloon was carrying nine passengers and two pilots when it slammed into the ground near Hartsel, Colorado, the Park County Emergency Management Office reported.

Haskell was one of two women injured. Following the crash, Haskell was life-flighted by Flight for Life to Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she subsequently passed later in the evening.

Haskell served as an educator for the Columbus Public Schools District for 33 years. She started her career in 1967 as an English teacher at Columbus Junior High School and officially retired from CMS in 2000.

Amy Jahn, library media technology specialist at CMS, only worked with Haskell during the final four years of her career but said that it was an ample amount of time to get to know the kind of person she was.

“She coached a little bit of volleyball and taught English,” Jahn said. “I didn’t work with her that long, but she was very active, full of life, loved to golf and socialize. She just loved adventure.”

Jahn said she was shocked when she heard the news of Haskell’s death, but that it came as no surprise that her former co-worker was out living life to her fullest when disaster struck.

“She was never a person who was going to be slowed down by her age or circumstances,” Jahn said. “She always got out there and stayed active. Her kindness, her sociability and her love for adventure were really what her demeanor was all about.”

The hot-air balloon flight originated out of the Hartsel area, released information stated. The Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and Park County Coroner David Kintz Jr. continue investigating contributing factors.

Kintz told The Banner-Press on Monday that he and his office were unable to further comment on the accident while the investigation continues.

Gene Stanley, director of the Park County Emergency Management Office, said in a situation like this he and his team simply make sure that the proper first responders are getting to where they need to be. On Friday, Stanley said that Hartsel Fire Protection District and South Park Ambulance District were dispatched to the scene of the accident.

Stanley said that while hot-air balloon accidents -- especially those resulting in a fatality -- are rare, the activity is pretty commonplace in that area of Colorado during the summer months.

“Fatalities are pretty unusual, but it’s (hot-air ballooning) definitely quite a normal occurrence in the Hartsel area … But yeah, this was a pretty unusual situation.”

Bettey Wieser, who taught earth science for 25 years at CMS until retiring in 2000, spent a lot of time with Haskell. They went to volleyball games together and even took short trips out of town, she said. Wieser described Haskell as a jokester and someone who genuinely enjoyed whatever she set her mind to doing.

“I wouldn’t even know where to start, so I’ll leave it at that,” Wieser said when asked what her fondest memories of Haskell are. “She was just a great person.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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