NTSB Identification: DEN08LA004.
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Accident occurred Monday, October 08, 2007 in Albuquerque, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/30/2008
Aircraft: Aerostar S-66A, registration: N7179Z
Injuries: 1 Fatal,2 Serious,2 Uninjured.

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

The hot air free balloon was participating in a balloon fiesta. Wind velocity had increased, and several balloons were seen to go by at high speed and low altitude. The pilot stayed low to keep right of the congested areas, but two of his passengers said they were flying too low. The pilot became distracted when he saw another balloon hit a house. The next thing he realized was that the wind had forced the balloon into power lines (the pilot told state troopers that he saw the power lines and activated the burners in an attempt to fly over them, but he told the FAA that he was on a landing approach and was in visual contact with the power line when he encountered a downdraft and was unable to clear the power lines). The balloon's basket struck the top static line of a 3-phase high voltage transmission line. The wind began to collapse the envelope and the pilot activated the burners in an attempt to maintain inflation and break loose from the power line. The basket slid down the wire and the wire became entangled in the basket's skid plate. The pilot threw a drop line to his chase crew in hopes they could pull him free. This attempt failed. The chase crew then attached the drop line to a pickup truck and tried to tow the balloon free. This attempt also failed. The braided static wire sawed through the wicker basket. The balloon finally came loose from the power line and started to rise. The drop line broke and the balloon "shot up in the air like a rocket." A propane tank fell from the basket, and then the passenger fell out. Estimates of the balloon's altitude varied from 70 to 200 feet. The pilot felt one corner of the basket drop and saw the hole. He looked up through the balloon's throat and could see blue sky because the dilation vent had become unseated. The balloon drifted east, and then descended. The pilot said the balloon came down faster than terminal descent speed and landed hard.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's failure to maintain adequate visual lookout and clearance resulting in an in-flight collision with power lines, and the ground crew's improper assistance. Contributing to this accident were the high wind, the pilot's diverted attention, low altitude, transmission wire, and the subsequent partial failure of the basket and envelope.

Full narrative available

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