CALGARY — A man who strapped more than 100 helium balloons to a lawn chair and soared above the Calgary Stampede grounds apologized Friday for the danger he caused, but said he doesn't regret his actions.
"I have the greatest story to tell for the rest of my life,'' said Daniel Boria, 27, when asked outside his sentencing hearing if it was worth it.
"I understood the risks but, if you do anything, you're going to get in trouble. If you don't do anything, you won't be in trouble but you won't get anywhere either.''
Boria pleaded guilty in December to dangerous operation of an aircraft. Floating into Calgary airspace in July 2015 was part of a publicity stunt for his cleaning company and earned him the nickname "balloonatic."
Boria tied industrial-sized balloons to a lawn chair as part of a plan to parachute over the Stampede chuckwagon races, but high winds forced him to jump early, before he reached the track.
"The stunt was unconscionably stupid,'' said Judge Bruce Fraser at the sentencing hearing Friday. "There was nothing fantastic, fun or exhilarating about it as the offender was quoted describing it. It was dumb and dangerous.''
Fraser said the lawn chair travelled into the flight paths of incoming and outgoing commercial airplanes. It was spotted by an incoming plane and the air traffic control tower.
"It is unknown what height he achieved, but there is an estimate of some 14,000 feet,'' said Fraser. "At some point a commercial aircraft, the offender called it a 747, passed underneath him.''
He said the stunt could have led to disaster.
"If he was headed into an oncoming aircraft, he could not have diverted away from it nor could the aircraft have avoided him. A collision could have disabled the aircraft in a number of ways causing it to fall and crash,'' said Fraser.
"Not only would there have been a loss of lives of those people on the aircraft, the crash would have been in a densely populated metropolis, risking the lives of those on the ground.''
Fraser fined him $5,000, with an additional $1,500 tacked on as a victim impact fee. Boria was also required to donate $20,000 to a local veterans foodbank.
"I have remorse. I understand we did cause a little bit of danger but at the same time when you text and drive, they don't charge you as if you were to hit a whole bus of kids,'' he said outside court.
"I really do apologize for wasting everybody's time.''
Daniel Boria leaves a court appearance in Calgary on Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo: CP)
Boria said he originally wanted a plane to drop him off so he could jump into the Stampede grounds but all pilots he contacted in Canada, the United States and Mexico refused. He said that's when he came up with the idea of using the balloons and the lawn chair.
His lawyer, Alain Hepner, said his client would have likely received a harsher sentence if he hadn't admitted to his crime.
"I think the resolution that was arrived at between Crown and I on behalf of Dan was most beneficial.''
Boria, who couldn't stop smiling when being interviewed, said he isn't embarrassed.
"It's pretty hard to take it seriously when you guys are asking me these questions based on me flying a lawn chair lifted by helium balloons.''
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