A low-flying hot air balloon literally scared a UK pig herd to death, and now the balloon’s company’s insurers have to pay up.
In April 2012, something scared Dan Gilbank’s 250 pigs at his farm near York, England, so much it set off a stampede that ended with disastrous – and costly – consequences, according to the Daily Mail.
One-hundred and forty sows miscarried 70 percent of their litters in the melee, resulting in a loss of nearly 800 piglets. In addition, three sows died from heart attacks, and a boar died the next day from injuries sustained in the mayhem.
Gilbank explained his pigs had run “like lemmings off a cliff.”
So what spooked Gilbank’s pigs that fateful spring day?
The answer: a low-flying hot air balloon carrying a party of sightseers.
For two years, Gilbank has held firm to his belief that it was the red-and-white striped balloon and the noise from its burners that caused the pigs to charge through their fences, stampede 200 yards and end up in a ditch.
Unfortunately, the company's insurers didn’t agree and initially offered a £10,000 compensation.
Thanks to a photo of the balloon hovering among the trees taken by changed by a neighboring farmer, Gilbank turned to a university math professor to prove his case. Using “fairly elementary mathematics,” Professor Chris Fewste was able to show the balloon was flying at a height of just 100 feet and was less than 1,000 feet from the pigs when it fired its burner, leaving little doubt the hot air balloon did indeed ignite the stampede.
The insurers have now agreed to settle with Gilbank for £38,782.