AZ Family reported an incident on Sunday morning, January 14, 2024, a hot air balloon operated by Droplyne Hot Air Balloon Rides crashed just north of Eloy, resulting in the deaths of four individuals and leaving one person in critical condition. The crash occurred at approximately 7:50 a.m. near Sunshine Boulevard and Hanna Road, sending shockwaves through the community.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have launched an investigation to determine the cause of the accident. According to an update from the NTSB, the crash involved a Kubicek BB85Z hot air balloon, which encountered difficulties with its envelope or balloon, ultimately leading to the tragic event.
Preliminary findings indicate that the balloon, which is designed to carry a pilot and 12-16 passengers, did not exhibit any mechanical anomalies. In an effort to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the crash, an electronic device containing flight information and a video camera have been sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C., for further analysis. The NTSB is also examining maintenance records for the balloon and gathering additional information regarding the pilot's experience. A preliminary report from the NTSB is expected to be released in approximately one month.
Local authorities, including the Eloy Police Department, are also conducting their own investigation into the incident. According to Eloy Police Chief Byron Gwaltney, the balloon had taken off with eight skydivers, four passengers, and the pilot on board. All the skydivers successfully completed their jumps before the tragic turn of events unfolded. "Shortly thereafter, something catastrophic occurred with the balloon, causing it to crash to the ground," explained Chief Gwaltney.
Firefighters swiftly responded to the scene, rescuing the victims from the wreckage. Unfortunately, one person was pronounced dead at the scene, while four others were rushed to a nearby hospital. Tragically, three of the injured individuals succumbed to their injuries, while the remaining survivor remains in critical condition at a Phoenix-area trauma center.
The intended flight plan of the hot air balloon and the prevailing wind conditions at the time of the incident remain unknown. Chief Gwaltney stated that the hot air balloon originated from outside of Eloy, with the skydivers' intention to land at the Eloy Municipal Airport, a prominent skydiving center. The Eloy Police Department is collaborating with the NTSB to interview witnesses and piece together the events leading up to the crash.
Eloy Mayor Micah Powell expressed his deep sorrow and condolences to the families and friends affected by the tragedy. He emphasized that the local skydiving community is known for its commitment to safety, making incidents like these rare and unforeseen.
This incident marks the deadliest hot air balloon crash since 2021 when five individuals lost their lives in a similar accident in Albuquerque. The NTSB has investigated 30 balloon crashes in Arizona since 2000, with the last fatal incident occurring in 2005 in Marana, resulting in one fatality and ten injuries.
As investigations continue, the community remains united in mourning the loss of lives and seeking answers to prevent such tragedies in the future.
In the aftermath of the devastating hot air balloon crash in Arizona, the pursuit of justice for the victims and their families becomes paramount. To shed light on the legal avenues available to them, we turn to personal injury attorney Kevin Biniazan, known for his understanding of aviation accidents. In this interview, Attorney Biniazan offers a deeper look into the process of seeking justice through civil lawsuits, identifying potentially negligent parties, and overcoming the unique challenges presented by hot air balloon accident cases. Join us as we explore the legal perspective on this tragic incident and the path towards accountability and compensation.
Darla Medina (DM): Welcome, Mr. Biniazan.
Kevin Biniazan (KB): Thank you, Darla. It's a pleasure to be here.
DM: In the event of a tragic incident like this hot air balloon accident, what legal options are available to the victims and their families seeking justice?
KB: When it comes to seeking justice in hot air balloon accidents and other aviation accidents, victims and their families have the right to pursue civil lawsuits against potentially negligent parties. These lawsuits can help provide compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the accident.
DM: Can you elaborate on who the potentially negligent parties might be in such an accident?
KB: Absolutely. In a hot air balloon accident, potential defendants can include the balloon operator, the manufacturer, maintenance crews, and other relevant parties involved in the operation and maintenance of the balloon. Determining liability requires a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash.
DM: How does one go about initiating a civil lawsuit in such cases?
KB: It's crucial for victims and their families to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in aviation accidents. The attorney will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the case, reviewing evidence, witness testimonies, and applicable laws. If there is evidence of negligence or a breach of duty, the attorney will guide the plaintiffs through the legal process and fight for their rights in court.
DM: Are there any challenges specific to hot air balloon accident lawsuits?
KB: Hot air balloon accident lawsuits can present unique challenges. Unlike commercial airlines, hot air balloon operations are subject to different regulations and standards. Proving negligence can require a deep understanding of aviation laws, industry practices, and safety protocols. Additionally, gathering evidence such as maintenance records, pilot qualifications, and weather conditions can be crucial in establishing liability.
DM: How long can victims and their families typically expect the legal process to take?
KB: The timeline can vary depending on the complexity of the case, the extent of the injuries, and other factors. It's essential to remember that each case is unique, and the legal process can be intricate. A skilled attorney will work diligently to expedite the process while ensuring the best possible outcome for the victims and their families.
DM: Thank you, Mr. Biniazan, for sharing your knowledge on the legal aspects surrounding hot air balloon accident lawsuits.
KB: It was my pleasure, Darla. Thank you for having me.