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Don’t wear a scarf if you are hot air ballooning

February 25, 2019 Headline News, Travel Law No Comments Email Email

The High Court of Australia has ruled that wearing a scarf is risky if you are hot air ballooning. Risky for the wearer, and risky for the balloon operator.

The ruling came out of a fatal accident on 13 July 2013, when a passenger was boarding a hot air balloon at a location near Alice Springs for a sunrise flight.

Passengers had been advised to wear beanies, scarfs and gloves, because it could be chilly at that time of day. Ms Bernoth wore a long scarf, wrapped twice around her neck, tied loosely at the front.

The fan to inflate the balloon had started, and three passengers had boarded the basket. As Ms Bernoth approached the basket, she passed by the inflation fan. The long lightweight tassels on her scarf were sucked into the inflation fan, causing her to be dragged towards the metal guard around the fan. The scarf was pulled tightly around her neck as it became entangled in the fan. She later died from the injuries sustained.

The photo shows the actual balloon as it started to inflate. Note how closely the fan is positioned to the basket.

Why was the High Court involved? The issue the High Court had to decide was whether WHS (Work Health and Safety) law applied. It decided it did, exposing the balloon operator to a fine of up to $1,500,000. This is in addition to its civil liability to compensate Ms Bernoth’s estate for her death.

The moral is – don’t wear a scarf on a hot air balloon flight unless the tassels are completely tucked in because it puts the passenger at risk of injury or death and the operator at risk of a large fine.

For more details click on my legal case note WHS Law exposes aircraft operators to substantial penalties for safety breaches 

Anthony J Cordato, Travel Lawyer E:

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