SEA94LA191
SEA94LA191

On July 21, 1994, at 2000 Pacific daylight time, a passenger fell out of an Avian Magnum 9 balloon, N50257, during a landing attempt in an open field about five miles northwest of Pasco, Washington. The commercial pilot and four of the passengers were not injured, but the individual who fell out of the basket received serious injuries. The balloon was not damaged. The commercial "balloon-ride" flight, which departed Columbia Park, Kennewick, Washington, at 0715 PDT, was being operated in visual meteorological conditions at the time of the accident. No flight plan had been filed, and the aircraft did not carry an ELT.

According to the pilot, the five passengers were briefed on general procedures prior to the flight, and briefed specifically about the landing about 10 to 15 minutes prior to the approach. He also stated that just before he attempted the landing, he told the passengers that, because of the winds, the landing might be "rough."

During the approach sequence, the basket made ground contact that resulted in "...a pretty hard forward jolt." The balloon then lifted back into the air, and the pilot told the passengers that the next contact would be the landing. He said that at that time, he once again reminded the passengers to hold on because the basket might lay over on its side when he made the landing in the seven to eight knot wind. During the next contact, which the pilot described as "pretty hard," one passenger fell over the handrail and became entangled in a turn vent line.

As the pilot attempted to help the ejected passenger, the passenger was dragged about 25 feet along the ground. The balloon then rose back into the air, resulting in the passenger hanging 20 to 30 feet above the terrain. The pilot therefore lowered the balloon until the entangled passenger contacted the ground, at which time the passenger became free of the rope. Immediately thereafter, the pilot landed the balloon, and went to the aid of the passenger.

According the pilot, the passenger's family informed him after the accident that the passenger had a preexisting problem with a tendon in both of his thumbs, which made it difficult for him to hold on during the hard landing.

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