Cleveland Balloon Stunt
The Cleveland Balloon Stunt World record
In September 1986 1.5 billion balloons filled with helium were released in Cleveland, Ohio as part of a fund raising publicity stunt to set a world record.
Unfortunately due to a prevailing rainstorm the balloons were released early but soon floated back down to the city and surrounding area.
Whilst this may not seem like a major disaster event, the consequences for the stunt were fatal to some, caused disruption and lead to claims against the state.
The fatalities of the event were two fishermen who could not be reached in time due to the inability of the coast guard search and rescue helicopter being able to fly in the balloon filled sky combined with the fact that when they landed they were unable to tell the difference between the missing boaters and the floating balloons. The wife of one of the drowned fishermen sued the United Way of Cleveland and the company that organized the event for $3.2 million and settled for undisclosed terms.
Another claim came from a local resident whose Arabian horse became spooked by the landing balloons and suffered permanent injuries. The owner sued the United Way of Cleveland for $100,000 in damages and settled for undisclosed terms.
The local airport, Burke Lakefront Airport, had to shut down a runway after balloons landed there causing delays and interruption to flights.
The event resulted in lawsuits against organisers and the city seeking millions of US dollars for damages.