A balloon that drifted free from its enclosure, after becoming untied, was shot dead yesterday.
The huge red balloon was shot down as a safety precaution by a game keeper after it soared over the perimeter fence at Gateshead Safari Park and Balloon Centre.
Emergency procedures were immediately instigated, aiming to retrieve the balloon safely. Local police and the game keeper tracked the escaped balloon for two hours. They found it heading towards the main street, where hundreds of shoppers were taking refuge.
It was there the decision was taken to shoot the dangerously drifting balloon rather than using a deflating dart.
"With so much air packed inside, it can take at least 20 minutes for a balloon that size to gradually deflate," said the keeper. "It could flop down anywhere - on anybody."
"With a few gunshots we just blasted it to smithereens and they fluttered down gently and harmlessly - just like confetti," he explained, with a hint of poetic licence.
Security officers at Gateshead Balloon Centre will now be using DKDC (double-knot & double-check) procedures when they tie balloon strings to their anchor posts.