On March 25, 1996, at 0943 mountain standard time, a Thunder & Colt Airborne America Colt 180A, N767TC, owned and operated by Mile High Adventures, was destroyed when it collided with terrain during landing 3 miles east of Hartsel, Colorado. One passenger was seriously injured and three passengers received minor injuries. The pilot and five other passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the commercial air tour flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at Hartsel, Colorado, about 1 hour before the accident.

According to the pilot, a formation of four balloons were transporting British tourists on a sightseeing flight. The balloons took off from Antera Reservoir, about 9 miles west of the accident site. The flight was uneventful and the accident balloon was the third balloon to land. The landing was made on rocky terrain at the bottom of a hill in winds less than 5 mph. The pilot said he deployed the parachute top. The balloon touched down and bounced. On the second bounce, the basket struck a rock and overturned. The basket was dragged up and over the hill, ejecting all but one occupant. One passenger became entangled in a rope and was dragged with the balloon. The pilot managed to free the passenger from the balloon and basket. Simultaneously, the balloon caught on fire and subsequently became airborne. The balloon drifted 8 miles east before landing in a wooded area.

Five of the ten passengers submitted written statements to the Park County Sheriff's Office. Additionally, written statements were obtained from the pilot, the tour organizer/balloon pilot, another balloon pilot in the formation, a member of the chase crew, and three ground witnesses. One passenger said two previous landing attempts were aborted due to obstructions or unsuitable terrain but when the balloon did touch down, it "bounced up the hill many times...at least 15 times." Another passenger said they "hit the ground 2 or 3 times heavily...the basket was hitting the ground very hard and bouncing." Two of the passengers noted that a preflight safety briefing was not given.


Examination of the site where the balloon and basket originally touched down disclosed numerous ground scars that extended up and over a hill. Pieces of wood, similar to that used in the basket construction, were noted at the first ground scar. The second ground scar was approximately 8 feet long. Near the top of the hill were several other ground contact marks. The other side of the hill additional touch down marks. The last ground scar noted was near the bottom of the hill (see attached photographs).


The wreckage was verbally released to the pilot's representative on March 29, 1996.

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