Saturday, July 2, 2016

Feds issue preliminary report on fatal hot air balloon accident in Nunda

Accident occurred Friday, June 10, 2016 in Nunda, NY
Aircraft: CAMERON A-225, registration: N69515
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Uninjured.

National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On June 10, 2016, about 8:30 p.m. eastern daylight time, a Cameron Balloon A-225, N69515, unintentionally lifted off after landing in a field in Nunda, New York, and was not damaged. The pilot was not injured; however, a ground crewmember was fatally injured after he attempted to secure the basket. The balloon was operated by the owner and doing business as Balloons Over Letchworth as a day, visual flight rules, passenger flight under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight originated from Letchworth State Park, Castile, New York.

The pilot reported that the flight with 10 passengers lasted about 45 minutes with winds from the northwest between 3 and 5 mph. During the descent the pilot contacted the ground crew and determined a suitable location for landing, which was a cut hay field. Immediately after landing, the passengers disembarked one at a time as the balloon remained inflated, but being weighed down by four ground crew employees. After the passengers got out of the basket, the ground crew was intending to "walk" the balloon over to the truck and trailer parked about 30 feet away.

As the pilot began unclasping the vent lines, and with the last passenger off, the balloon began a sudden ascent and drifted over a nearby hedgerow. As it approached nearby trees, he added a blast of hot air to get over the trees and ascended to about 200 feet above ground level (agl). During the ascent, he heard his name being called, but thought it was coming from his radio. When he heard his name called again, he realized that one of the ground crewmembers was hanging onto one of the handling ropes below the basket.

The pilot could not see the individual because he was in the middle of the basket near the controls. The pilot called out and said "…are you with me?" to which the ground crewmember acknowledged. The pilot further reported that he told the ground crewmember to hold on and that he would get him down safely, which was acknowledged. Several moments later, about 100 feet agl, the ground crewmember fell from the basket and was fatally injured. The pilot radioed in to call 911 and landed the balloon safely about 1 mile away.

The balloon was manufactured in 2016 and had accumulated 33.2 hours of total flight time. The basket contained sixteen rope handles along the bottom perimeter of the basket; three on each side, and 5 along the length.

Federal Aviation Administration inspectors arrived on scene and secured the balloon for further examination.