Melbourne: Man falls hot-air balloon, dies

A tragic incident occurred in Melbourne’s north-east as a man fell from a hot-air balloon, resulting in his death. Emergency services responded to Albert Street in Preston around 7:30 am on Monday, where the man’s body was discovered. Authorities closed the road between Wood Street and Murray Road, urging motorists to avoid the area.

Police, in collaboration with witnesses and other occupants of the balloon, are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident, although foul play is not suspected. The balloon successfully landed at Yarra Bend Park, and counseling is being offered to the other passengers.

The National Commercial Hot Air Ballooning Industry and the Australian Ballooning Federation extended condolences to the man’s family. They highlighted the safety measures designed to prevent accidents, emphasizing the psychological support being arranged for those affected.

The hot air balloon had departed from CT Barling Reserve, Reservoir, at 7 am before the incident occurred. WorkSafe Victoria, the Air Transport Safety Bureau, and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority are conducting investigations into the matter.

This incident brings attention to previous hot air balloon accidents in the region, including a forced landing in Elwood in April 2022 and injuries sustained during a hard landing near Lilydale on New Year’s Eve in 2021. In another incident in 2018, a fuel leak caused a fire on a hot air balloon flying over Victoria, resulting in injuries to passengers upon landing.

In light of previous incidents involving hot air balloons, including forced landings and injuries, authorities are likely to scrutinize safety protocols and regulations within the hot air ballooning industry. Investigations by relevant authorities such as WorkSafe Victoria, the Air Transport Safety Bureau, and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority will likely delve into factors contributing to the tragic event, including equipment malfunctions, weather conditions, and pilot experience.

The incident serves as a reminder of the inherent risks associated with hot air ballooning, despite safety measures in place. It may prompt a review of safety standards and training procedures to prevent similar accidents in the future. Additionally, psychological support and counseling for those affected by the tragedy underscore the emotional toll such incidents can have on survivors and witnesses.

As the investigation progresses, authorities will work to provide clarity on the circumstances surrounding the man’s death and take appropriate actions to ensure the safety of future hot air balloon flights. This unfortunate event has undoubtedly left a profound impact on the local community and the broader hot air ballooning industry in Melbourne.

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