Consider the bright colors and the adventure of flying you get without being stuck in a cramped middle seat—that might be why hot air ballooning, either as a passenger or as a spectator, makes a lot of people happy. From the famous Albuquerque festival in October, which draws thousands from all over the world, to the Preakness Celebration Balloon Festival in Ellicott City, watching and riding in balloons have a lot of fans. Several places in the greater Baltimore-Washington area will provide you with a ride.
Ballooning is often quite safe. But when mishaps occur, they usually include power lines or catching fire, with severe burns and deaths the result. Former NFL player Donte Stallworth and a friend were seriously burned in 2013 when the balloon they were riding in contacted power lines. Both were electrocuted, and Stallworth’s friend actually caught on fire.
Some of the deadliest ballooning accidents are recent, such as in February, 2013, when a hot air balloon flying over Luxor, Egypt, caught fire, killing 19 of 21 persons aboard. There’s also the 2012 New Zealand accident where 11 people died after the balloon burst into flames.
Here in the U.S., recent balloon accidents include:
- A May, 2014, incident, in which a hot air balloon that burst into flames in eastern VA killed three people.
- A July, 2014, accident in Clinton, MA, where a balloon hit power lines. Five of the six people in the balloon suffered burns, some of them serious.
- A mid-August, 2015, situation in which three people—two passengers and the pilot—were taken to a trauma center with severe injuries after their balloon hit power lines in Lancaster County, PA. The accident is under investigation by the FAA.
There was even a freak mishap at Wisconsin’s Waterford Balloonfest this July. A strong gust of wind carried away several balloons and knocked over people on the ground. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.
This last situation illustrates the common thread in most of these accidents—their unpredictability and suddenness. For various reasons (sometimes because of the weather), the pilot is unable to control the balloon, sending it reeling into power lines or crashing to the ground.
Statistics and Regulations
Since 1964, the National Transportation Safety Board has investigated 775 hot air balloon accidents in the U.S. Seventy of those accidents involved fatalities. From 2002 to 2012, 16 people have died in ballooning accidents.
In accordance with FAA rules, all hot air balloons must be inspected annually. If the balloon is used commercially—meaning, you pay money to ride in it—it must be inspected after every 100 hours of flight time. Additionally, hot air balloon pilots must undergo a successful flight review every two years.
We’re Listening. How Can We Help?
Do you have questions about this topic, or have you been injured while engaging in a recreational pursuit? If you suspect negligence is the reason for your injuries, you can find out more by discussing whether you have a case with Baltimore personal injury attorney Steve Heisler. If you or a family member has been the victim of a personal injury in Maryland or the District of Columbia, you should keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. Contact “The Injury Lawyer,” Steven Heisler, for a free initial consultation by calling (410) 625-4878 today, or by using our online contact form.