After a flight time of around 1 h 10 min, the balloon started its descent with a low vertical speed to land in a field, facing the upward slope. At a height of around five metres, the balloon suddenly descended. The pilot activated the double burner to dampen the descent but his input had no effect. He informed the passengers that it was going to be a hard landing and that the basket would be dragged along the ground. On impact with the ground, one passenger was unable to hold his position, collided with another passenger and broke her left collarbone. The basket slid around ten metres and then turned onto its side before coming to a halt.
The possible presence of downdrafts at low height associated with the inertia of the balloon close to its maximum weight meant that the pilot was not able to prevent a hard landing. One of the passengers was unable to hold the recommended landing position, probably due to physical limitations, and fell on a passenger who was injured during the impact.
This event shows that despite compliance with the flight preparation and landing rules, rough contact with the ground can catch some passengers unawares or exceed their physical capacities. A simple reminder to occasional or regular ballooners can prove insufficient to cover this risk.
The regulations for balloon operation introduced in France since February 2015 are designed to limit these risks by requiring that the passengers show, before the flight, their capacity to simultaneously adopt the landing position.
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