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Liability for hot air balloon accidents not always as clear as with ordinary aircraft, P.1

Readers are accustomed to hearing, from time to time, about small plane and large airline accidents in the news, particularly those involving large crowds of people. Such accidents, particularly small plane accidents, occur with relative frequency. Hot air balloon accidents, on the other hand, do not occur as often.

Hot air balloon use is certainly not nearly as widespread as airplane use, and accidents are relatively rare, but they do occur from time to time. Last fall, for instance, a hot air balloon carrying 16 people crashed in Texas after it caught on fire. Tragically, all the passengers on the flight died. Initial reports of the accident said that the balloon is believed to have crashed into power lines. 

Subsequent reports on the accident mentioned the balloon pilot’s decision to fly the balloon in less than ideal conditions. Specifically, it was reported that the cloud ceiling on the day of the accident was at 700 feet and weather reports did not give a strong indication of the sky clearing. It also emerged later that the pilot had been on medications for a variety of conditions, and that this may have disqualified him from piloting the flight.

Records of balloon accidents show that one of the common causes is hitting fixed objects, including trees and power lines. The latter scenario, of course, presents the greatest threat of serious harm for balloon passengers, because of the risk of electrocution. Accidents can be caused by trying to avoid power lines as well.

Sorting out who is liable in hot air balloon accidents is not necessarily an easy matter. In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at this issue and the importance of always working with an experienced attorney to seek appropriate recovery in connection with hot air balloon and other aircraft accidents.


CNN, “Deadly hot air balloon crash raises legal issues,” Danny Cevallos, Aug. 1, 2016., “NTSB: Pilot in Texas balloon crash that killed 16 was told conditions were dangerous before flight,” John Tedesco, Dec. 9, 2017.

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