Windy day leads to Balloon Fiesta lawsuit

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Mass Ascension stockimg

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A man who claims the balloon pilot he was riding with shouldn’t have taken off on a windy day three years ago and that Balloon Fiesta shouldn’t have let him is suing.

The lawsuit stems from a blustery October day during the 2012 Balloon Fiesta.

According to the lawsuit, there was about a one hour delay because of wind conditions, but balloons were able to eventually launch. The plaintiff, Anthony Hall, was riding with New Hampshire pilot Rick Jones. The flight drifted over Corrales as the winds picked up again.

Jones decided to bring the balloon down in a field near the Juvenile Detention Center in Rio Rancho, but according to the lawsuit, the winds forced a hard landing.

The force of the impact ejected Plaintiff Hall and broke the fiberglass poles of the gondola… the gondola landed on top of Plaintiff Hall’s upper torso and dragged him on his back along the ground covered with sagebrush and rocks for about 30 feet.

The lawsuit claims Hall suffered serious injuries, but doesn’t specify what they were. Video from Sky News 13 from that day shows several rough landings due to the wind and even one balloon caught up in power lines.

Hall and his wife are now suing Jones and Balloon Fiesta for negligence and is looking for punitive and compensatory damages. The lawsuit claims Jones didn’t fly carefully or safely enough and that Fiesta needed to better screen pilots and shouldn’t have let balloons launch that day.

The attorney behind the lawsuit, Marvin Romero, declined comment for this story when reached by KRQE News 13 Wednesday. Balloon Fiesta officials also declined to comment on the lawsuit but did say the event does everything it can to make sure pilots are informed of wind conditions on flight days.

“We’ve got about six or seven reporting stations around the Albuquerque area that reports winds,” said Don Edwards, Balloon Fiesta’s event director. “If we have some surprises on weather and all of a sudden things change for the unexpected, we have a text messaging service.”

Edwards also made it clear that pilots who fly Fiesta do so at their own risk.

“All flights we have out here are made basically on the pilot’s decision,” Edwards said. “We’d never tell anyone they’d have to fly.”

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