FTW98LA064
FTW98LA064

On December 6, 1997, approximately 0925 mountain standard time, a member of the ground crew was fatally injured when she fell from an Adams A55S hot air balloon, N1063V, at Gallup, New Mexico. The balloon was not damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated in Gallup approximately 0805.

The following is based on the pilot's written statement that was included with his accident report, and subsequent telephone conversations. His balloon, Angel Dancer, was one of numerous hot air balloons participating in the Red Rocks Balloon Rally. The pilot attended a briefing at 0700, and the balloon was launched at 0805. He landed several times to allow passengers to disembark and other passengers to board. Although the wind remained calm, the pilot was concerned that the sun warming the red cliffs would cause increased air current movement. He decided to attach a drop (or tether) line for ground personnel to use to keep the balloon in the immediate area. On the last landing, the pilot vented heat from the envelope to insure loss of buoyancy, then instructed one of the passengers to step out but to keep his weight on the basket. The passenger complied. The second passenger exited before the pilot could give similar instructions, and the balloon began to ascend. Unable to hold the balloon down, the ground crew released their weight from the basket as the pilot had instructed them to do in safety briefings. The pilot immediately pulled the vent line, but the balloon continued to ascend at a "moderate rate." The pilot then noticed a shadow hanging from the balloon. Looking down, he saw one of his ground crew members holding on to one of the rope handles, located along the bottom edge of the basket. The balloon was 15 to 20 feet in the air and continued to ascend. The pilot continued to vent the envelope. Other members of the ground crew held onto the tether line. The balloon reached a maximum altitude of 75 to 80 feet before it began to descend. When it was approximately 40 feet above the ground, the crew member said she couldn't hold on anymore and fell to the ground.

In another written statement, the pilot's wife (a member of the ground crew) said the fatally injured party had been a member of the ground crew for about two years. She had attended safety meetings conducted by the pilot and "knew his drill about hands on and hands off," and "not to hold the balloon by those rope handles."

Two other members of the ground crew submitted corroborating written statements. The pilot said 10 or 12 people comprised his ground team.

A home video of the accident appeared on Albuquerque's KOAT-TV evening news. The television station refused to provide NTSB a copy of the tape. A subpoena was served and the tape was released. A review of the tape revealed the camera was some distance from the balloon and details were difficult to discern. The tape did not provide any insight into the accident.

Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsis
Return to Query Page