Dubai: A hot air-balloon operator was fined Dh5,000 on Monday for accidentally injuring three holidaymakers during an unsuccessful landing of an air-balloon in Mergam area.
The 36-year-old Egyptian operator pleaded not guilty and argued before the Dubai Misdemeanours Court that when the accident happened in February 2016 he was facing family problems and his employer had barred him from going on urgent leave.
Defending himself in court, the Egyptian operator said he was taken aback when the air-balloon suddenly reversed upwards during the landing and then plunged from a height of 17-metres and came crashing down.
He refuted the prosecutors’ accusation that he failed to take precautionary measures and perform his duties professionally during the botched landing that injured two Moroccans and a one Portuguese tourist. They were all sight-seeing.
Presiding judge Ayman Abdul Hakam ruled the defendant was responsible for the crash and fined him Dh5,000 for being liable for the accident in which the three tourists were left with permanent disabilities.
According to the accusation sheet, prosecutors said the defendant failed to operate the air-balloon according to professional standards when he didn’t pull the red rope to deflate the balloon completely during landing.
The defendant’s action, that prosecutors described as ‘incorrect and unprofessional’, had kept air inside the balloon, which was enough for it to fly up again before he switched off the burner (that usually fires the vehicle up) to deflate the air-balloon. This caused it to land fast and crash on the ground. The hard crash caused injuries to the tourists who sustained 10-15 per cent permanent disabilities each, according to records.
An aviation safety inspector, who investigated the case, testified before prosecutors that the operator should have performed the usual standards and opened the upper parachute to deflate the balloon during the landing.
“What he did, doesn’t contradict or violate the standard landing instructions … but the fact that he didn’t pull the red rope fully kept some hot air in the balloon. This was the main cause that led to the crash once he switched off the burners that usually fires up an air-balloon. The remaining hot air had made the air-balloon fly up despite that the burner being switched off and then it re-landed quickly because he had kept the upper parachute open and it crashed. In the investigation report, the defendant had claimed that he had family problems and requested an urgent leave from his employer on the same day but his request was denied. He shouldn’t have operated the air-balloon because his personal problems could have affected his concentration and distracted him while flying it,” said the inspector.
The primary judgement remains subject to appeal.