October 10, 2007 | Mark Paradies

Balloon Accident Kills One – How Much Risk is Acceptable

An AP Story on the CNN web site reported an accident at a popular New Mexico Hot Air Balloon Festival.

Certainly Hot Air Balloon transportation isn’t commercial airline transportation. Any flight that ends with controlled crash in a field (even without power lines getting involved) certainly has more risk than most everyday activities. Thus the article begs to ask the question:

How much risk is acceptable for a recreational activity?

For now, we all must answer this question before we partake of higher risk activities:

  • Hot Air Ballooning
  • Ultralight Flight
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Whitewater Kayaking
  • Motorcycle Riding
  • Mountain Biking
  • Even some contact sports like Football, Rugby, and Hockey

Individuals should answer this question for themselves. But if you decide to take the risk, please don’t ask to be rescued using taxpayer dollars or sue everyone in sight when things go awry. These high risk activities are “near the edge” and things will go wrong and people will die. These activities by their nature are inherently dangerous and less controlled than our everyday activities (do a Safeguards Analysis and prove it for yourself).

So the next time you go wilderness backpacking and a grizzly eats one of your friends, don’t sue the park service (or even the bear). Just consider yourself lucky that the bear wasn’t real hungry. That’s why you got away.

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