NFL’s Stallworth Says He’s Lucky to Be Alive After Balloon Crash

Donte’ Stallworth said he feels lucky to be alive after suffering severe burns when a hot-air balloon the free-agent wide receiver was riding in with his girlfriend struck power lines two days ago in Florida.

Stallworth and Soleil Guerrero, are in stable condition in Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center, Stallworth’s attorney, Christopher Lyons, said yesterday.

The hot-air balloon basket was carrying three adults when it crashed into power lines while landing on March 16 in Homestead, Florida, Detective Roy Rutland of the Miami-Dade Police Department said. The third passenger wasn’t hurt.

“I appreciate all the prayers and well wishes more than you know,” Stallworth, 32, said on Twitter. “I feel lucky to be alive.”

Drew Rosenhaus, Stallworth’s agent, said the injuries shouldn’t interfere with the player’s National Football League career, according to the Associated Press. Stallworth is looking for a job in the free-agent market after playing last season with the New England Patriots.

“He’s going to be OK,” added Rosenhaus, who is at the NFL owners’ meetings in Phoenix according to his Twitter feed. “He will be able to continue his NFL career. The injuries are not to the extent they will jeopardize his career.”

The Patriots said they didn’t have any communication with Stallworth since he’s no longer a member of the team.

DUI Conviction

The accident occurred almost four years to the day after Stallworth killed a pedestrian while driving drunk after leaving a hotel bar near Miami Beach. He spent 24 days in jail.

Stallworth, who was playing for the Cleveland Browns at the time, was suspended for the 2009 NFL season by Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating both the league’s substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.

Stallworth, driving his Bentley on March 14, 2009, killed 59-year-old construction worker Mario Reyes, police said. Tests showed Stallworth had a blood-alcohol level of .126 after the crash, above Florida’s legal limit of .08.

Three months later, Stallworth pleaded guilty to manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol and received a 30-day jail term. He also was sentenced to two years of house arrest, eight years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service. Attorneys for Reyes’s family reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Stallworth, who signed a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Browns before the 2008 season.

Stallworth joined the Baltimore Ravens after he was reinstated following the Feb. 7, 2010, Super Bowl and his contract with the Browns was voided. He also played for the Washington Redskins before joining the Patriots.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the balloon accident, Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said in an e-mail.

A preliminary report of the findings can be expected in about 10 days, while the complete investigation may take as long as 18 months, Holloway said.