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Orange County Great Park balloon grounded due to Hong Kong accident

July 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A popular Orange County balloon ride is out of action. There are safety concerns after a balloon accident that took place overseas.

The huge helium balloon at Orange County Great Park remains grounded after an accident in Hong Kong involving a similar balloon last week.

"We have inspected this balloon ourselves with our pilots," said Rod Cooper, Great Park operations manager. "Our pilots are actually employed by Aerophile, so they know really a lot about what they're doing, and we haven't really found anything that gives us any pause at all. We think it's fine, but we're going to wait on the inspectors to come and give us an all-clear."

France-based manufacturer Aerophile is sending inspectors to check out several balloons around the world with similar design.

Officials say a rapid deflation panel on top of the balloon in Hong Kong for some reason opened unexpectedly. The balloon plunged about 200 feet to the ground.

The accident in Hong Kong left five people injured, four people in the balloon and one person on the ground who was hit by the falling balloon. Fortunately the injuries were minor.

The Great Park's tethered balloon started offering rides in 2007, lifting passengers up 400 feet into the air. About 60,000 people come aboard every year.

When the ride will re-open is also unknown. Great Park officials say with the upcoming holiday, they would like to offer rides, but are prepared to keep the attraction closed if it's a matter of safety.


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