The commercial pilot was conducting a sponsor flight for a local balloon rally with a student pilot and two passengers onboard. After a 15-minute flight, the pilot landed the balloon in a field. After landing, the student exited the basket to control the balloon’s crown line in preparation for deflating the envelope, and the two passengers remained crouched down in the balloon basket. As the pilot started to deflate the envelope, the wind increased, which concaved the envelope and subsequently pulled the balloon forward, tipping the basket over. As the basket tipped over, the pilot fell forward and hit his head on the dual burner assembly. The pilot became unconscious about 20 to 30 seconds later, and was unresponsive when emergency personnel arrived. He was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
A postaccident examination of the balloon envelope, basket, fuel tanks, fuel lines, and the dual burner system revealed no damage or anomalies.
The pilot had previously mentioned to the student pilot that he felt unwell, and his postaccident medical examination demonstrated significant cardiomegaly and evidence of pulmonary edema, which supported his symptoms. This suggests that he had some degree of heart failure before the accident, which caused fluid to build up in his lungs and likely shortness of breath. It is likely that the pilot’s underlying heart disease and pulmonary edema distracted him from securing himself in the basket while pulling the vent line to deflate the envelope and contributed to his fall and subsequent injuries. This left the pilot unprepared when the basket tipped over, and resulted in the pilot hitting his head on the balloon’s dual burners, causing fatal injuries to his head and neck.
Probable cause(s): The pilot’s failure to ensure that he was secure in the balloon’s basket after landing, which resulted in him falling and striking his head on the burners when the wind caught the envelope and tipped the basket over. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s underlying heart disease and pulmonary edema that distracted him from securing himself in the basket and left him unprepared when the basket tipped over.
NOTE: The report republished here is from the NTSB and is printed verbatim and in its complete form.
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