Israeli Authorities Investigating Fatal Hot Air Balloon Accident

Authorities in Israel are investigating the death of a hot air balloon employee who fell to his death, landing on a moving car.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 28-year-old Yogev Cohen was participating in a launch of a hot air balloon Tuesday near Balfouria, a popular vacation district in northern Israel, when he did not let go of the basket as it began to ascend. Cohen fell more than 100 feet. Neither the persons in the car nor the 12 people aboard the balloon were harmed. The balloon landed safely a short time later.

Cohen was one of three ground crew members responsible for holding the bottom of the basket to stabilize the aircraft. Company rules require that three ground crew members must be holding the balloon while it inflates to stabilize it.

According to a preliminary police report, Cohen kept hold of the basket until after the balloon was inflated and lifted off.

According to the report in Haaretz, Almog Amir, the owner of Lagaat Bashamayom, a company which has been flying hot air balloons for 20 years, told authorities that by the time the pilot noticed Cohen was still hanging on to the basket, the balloon was at least 30 feet in the air.

The pilot wanted to descend, but there were power lines in the way. The pilot was attempting to land when Cohen fell.

Amir noted that he does not know why Cohen did not let go, as his coworkers reportedly yelled to him to do so as the balloon rose.

According to the media outlet, authorities are investigating the accident.

Gadi Regev, the Transportation Ministry’s chief air safety investigator, stated, “We’re focusing mainly on [how] to prevent the next accident,” he said.

“Whether they deviated from the regulations, what the pilot’s checklist was, where they took off from and so forth. We aren’t looking for people to blame, but for the causes of the disaster, in order to prevent the next accident.”

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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