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N501LB accident description

Oregon map... Oregon list
Crash location 42.428056°N, 123.390277°W
Nearest city Grants Pass, OR
42.439007°N, 123.328393°W
3.2 miles away
Tail number N501LB
Accident date 18 Jun 2010
Aircraft type Arbc Inc Dba Lindstrand 120A
Additional details: None
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NTSB Factual Report

On June 18, 2010, about 0820 Pacific daylight time, an individual fell from the exterior of the basket of a Lindstrand 120A hot air balloon, N501LB. That individual received serious injuries when he impacted the grassy terrain of an elementary school playground in Grants Pass, Oregon. The pilot of the balloon, who was the sole interior occupant, was not injured. The balloon, which was owned and operated by the pilot, was not damaged. The 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 flight departed a city park in Grants Pass about 90 minutes prior to the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan had been filed.

According to the pilot, at the end of the flight he landed in a grassy area of an empty elementary school playground. After the landing, three of the four passengers were instructed to climb out of the basket, and to keep their weight on the top rim of the basket as the still inflated balloon was moved along the ground to the location where it was going to be deflated. After reaching the location where the balloon was to be deflated, the last passenger was instructed to exit the balloon, but to keep her weight on the top rim of the basket as the other passengers were doing. Soon after the last passenger exited the basket and applied her weight to the top rim of the basket, the basket shifted as one of the individuals holding it adjusted the position of their weight. As the balloon shifted, one of the individuals who was providing downward force on the basket released their hold on the basket because they interpreted the shift as the lift-off of the basket. This individual released their hold because all those participating had been briefed to let go of the basket if it began to lift off the ground. Once that person removed their weight from the basket, the balloon began to ascend, and the three remaining individuals holding onto the basket released their grip on the top rim. But then, as the balloon continued to ascend, one of the individuals who had released his grip on the basket rim grabbed onto the rope handles near the base of the basket, and was therefore lifted into the air as the balloon continued its ascent.

The pilot did not initially realize that someone was hanging from the bottom of the basket, but when he heard others yelling for that individual to let go, he became aware of the situation. At that time the pilot immediately began venting air from the top of the balloon in order to get it rapidly back on the ground, but before the pilot was able to get the balloon's basket back on the ground, the individual holding onto the rope handles lost his grip and fell approximately 20 feet to the terrain below.

The individual who fell from the balloon does not have memory of the event, but according to the pilot, this individual had worked as part of his ground crew, and taken occasional flights with him, for over 20 years. The pilot stated that this individual had a long term familiarity with the rule that you do not hold onto the basket of a balloon once it begins to ascend. It could not be determined why the individual grabbed onto the handles at the base of the basket after releasing his hold from the basket rim.

NTSB Probable Cause

The balloon ground crew member's decision to not release his hold on the basket of an ascending hot air balloon basket as it lifted off of the ground.

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