LAX03LA097
LAX03LA097

On February 25, 2003, about 0755 Pacific standard time, a bystander fell from a Firefly 11B balloon, N1501H, during departure from Yountville, California. Bonaventure Balloon Company was operating the balloon under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The commercial pilot was not injured; the bystander sustained fatal injuries. The balloon was not damaged during the local positioning flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot reported that the flight was canceled as a result of poor weather conditions. However, she was going to lift the balloon into the air so that the scheduled passengers could take a picture of the balloon in flight. This required repositioning the balloon around a tree. The balloon was approximately 5 feet off the ground during the repositioning, with five ground crew members assisting in the repositioning. Two of the bystanders (passengers) came from behind and grabbed onto the handles at the bottom of the basket. This resulted in the balloon impacting the side of the tree. The pilot said, "Let go and hold the ropes," intending to raise the balloon back up 5 feet to clear the tree.

The ground crew chief realized the two bystanders were latched onto the balloon and said, "Let go!" The balloon ascended and one of the bystanders did not release the balloon. It continued to ascend to approximately 100 feet above ground level (agl) and the pilot realized that the bystander was hanging from the balloon. She told him to "...hold on..." but after a short time he released the balloon. The loss of weight resulted in the balloon ascending another 100 feet. The pilot landed uneventfully moments later.

A toxicological test for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs was completed on the bystander at the Federal Aviation Administration Toxicology and Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The test was positive for the following:

0.0081 (ug/ml, ug/g) of tetrahydrocannabinol detected in blood;
an unquantified amount of tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid detected in blood;
0.0385 (ug/ml, ug/g) tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid detected in bile;
0.024 (ug/ml, ug/g) propoxyphene detected in blood;
0.157 (ug/ml, ug/g) propoxyphene detected in liver;
0.135 (ug/ml, ug/g) norpropoxyphene detected in blood;
and 1.85 (ug/ml, ug/g) norpropoxyphene detected in liver.

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