top of page

11-Year-Old Boy Survives Balloon Ride

Apr. 18, 1964 - Someone yelled “Grab a rope” and 11-year-old Danny Nowell did.

Seconds later, he was dangling 30 feet below a manned balloon as it drifted at 3,000 feet over Marin County, just north of San Francisco.

“Sir, please help me,” Danny cried to the balloonist, William Berry.

The astonished pilot glanced down from his perch below the two-story-tall balloon and began “spilling” air to make it descend.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get you down,” he called.

Descending at 25 feet a second, the balloon and Danny crashed through a tree in the backyard of the Clarence Browning home, three miles from the takeoff point.

The boy, suffering shock and a bruise of the left hand, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced in good shape.

Danny conceded he was pretty scared. He said he hadn’t expected to come through alive.

The balloon was one of two that were to take off to publicize a balloon race to be sponsored next month by a San Francisco nightclub.

“I was riding my bike when I saw a crowd and two balloons in a field,” Danny reported. “I went over to see what was going on, and somebody yelled ‘Grab a rope.’”

“Four boys — including me — were holding one rope. A woman was holding another, and two boys were holding another. Then the balloon took off, and everybody let go but me.”

Support this project at


bottom of page