GRANTS PASS — A 70-year-old Grants Pass man was in critical condition Friday after an early morning hot-air balloon accident.

GRANTS PASS — A 70-year-old Grants Pass man was in critical condition Friday after an early morning hot-air balloon accident.

Eldon Foster was airlifted to Rogue Valley Medical Center after the 8:20 a.m. accident. He had been a crew member for some 20 years, said his friend Bill Woodhead, owner of His Sky Balloons in Rogue River.

Woodhead said the balloon landed after a routine flight in the field behind Redwood Elementary School on Leonard Road and the ground crew walked it over to a paved area behind the school.

As ground crew members held the balloon down and let two people step out of the gondola, the balloon rose about 20 feet, which commonly happens when weight is released. Two ground crew members let go, but Foster held on to the side of the basket attempting to keep it on the ground.

"I didn't know he was hanging on until it lifted," Woodhead said. "Typically, he would have let go when this happens, but he didn't."

Foster landed on the pavement behind the school, suffering severe head injuries, and emergency crews were called.

He was transported to RVMC by a Mercy Flights helicopter. Woodhead said this is the first time in 30 years of flying and more than 2,400 flights all over the world that he's experienced an accident of this kind.

Linsay Olesak is a reporter for the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Reach her at 541-474-3722 or lolesak@thedailycourier.com