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Sun, Jan 28, 2024

NTSB Prelim: Kubicek BB85Z

The Sewn Rim Tape Material Near The Top Of The Envelope Was Frayed

Location: Eloy, AZ Accident Number: WPR24FA072
Date & Time: January 14, 2024, 07:47 Local Registration: N4961D
Aircraft: Kubicek BB85Z Injuries: 4 Fatal, 1 Serious, 8 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Other work use

On January 14, 2024, about 0747 mountain standard time, a Kubicek BB85Z balloon, N4961D, was involved in an accident near Eloy, Arizona. The pilot and 3 passengers were fatally injured, and one passenger sustained serious injuries. The balloon was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 sightseeing passenger and skydiving flight. 

The flight originated about 0630, just after sunrise. The departure area was about 18 miles west-northwest from the accident site. The flight was scheduled with 13 people onboard, including 8 skydivers that planned to jump from the balloon. Interviews with skydivers revealed that after about 35 minutes, the balloon had ascended to about 10,000 ft mean sea level (msl) and all 8 skydivers departed the balloon in small groups, as planned. The 4 passengers and pilot remained in the basket. A few minutes later, witnesses saw the balloon descending towards the ground.

A review of multiple mobile phone videos revealed that the balloon was descending with a deflated envelope trailing from above. Additionally, at times the burner flame under the envelope was observed.

The accident site was flat desert terrain, sparsely populated with sage brush. The basket landed upright. The envelope remained attached to the basket and showed thermal damage near the mouth of the envelope. The sewn rim tape material near the top of the envelope was frayed, and several of the panels were damaged.

The wreckage was relocated to a secured facility for further examination. 

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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