Balloon entrepreneur Bill Harrop takes last flight after losing Covid-19 fight

Hot-air balloon tourism pioneer died on Sunday, just eight days after his wife

Paul Ash Senior reporter
Bill Harrop with one of his balloons.
Bill Harrop with one of his balloons.
Image: Bill Harrop's 'Original' Balloon Safaris

Balloon pilot Bill Harrop has taken his last ride. The 81-year-old veteran balloonist, who pioneered hot-air balloon tourism in SA, died on Sunday, just eight days after his wife, Mary.

The couple had been battling Covid-19.

"Sam and I are absolutely devastated to share the tragic news that our dad, our hero gained his angel wings at 1.25pm (SA time) yesterday, July 4," Harrop's daughter, Sarah Bauling, wrote on Facebook.

"This 'storm' came at him with everything it had. He fought hard, he gave it his all, he did not 'stand down' ... but sadly it simply swept him away. Our lives will never be the same."

Bauling said the family was "wrecked, knowing that this world has lost a man who gave so much, laughed so easily and lived every second to the fullest".

Harrop's balloon safari operation first took off in 1981. The company was famous for its spectacular scenic flights over the Magaliesberg at sunrise.

Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) CEO David Frost paid tribute to Harrop, who had been a member of the association for more than 40 years.

"He was a committed and most loyal member who fought for the integrity of Satsa and who participated right to end with his offer to contribute to the red list lobbying just three  weeks ago," said Frost. "We will miss his song and dance, but there is comfort in knowing that he is entertaining his wife and friends somewhere else."

Harrop and Mary will be remembered in on online tribute on July 10. 


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