The sister of a California woman who fell at least 70 feet to her death during the Albuquerque, N.M., International Balloon Fiesta earlier this month has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the balloon pilot, his employers and the fiesta.
The lawsuit, filed in state district court here, accuses the defendants of being reckless and causing the Oct. 8 accident that led to the death of Rosemary Wooley Phillips, 60, of Oceanside, Calif.
Three of her friends who were in the balloon and were injured that morning also are plaintiffs in the case. The women’s attorney declined to comment Friday.
The balloon the women were in — named “Heavenly Ride” — snagged a utility line that morning. The pilot threw down a tether to a pickup truck on the ground in an apparent attempt to reel the balloon down and free it, according to state police.
The tether broke and the balloon bounced back up, causing its gondola to tip and Phillips to fall. Witnesses reported that Phillips was screaming and flailing her arms as she fell.
Paramedics tried to revive her but she was pronounced dead a short time later at University of New Mexico Hospital.
The balloon, meanwhile, came free and drifted across a road near Interstate 25. It crash-landed, injuring the other women and the pilot. Two of the women had broken legs and another had minor bumps and bruises.
The lawsuit names as defendants the fiesta, pilot Tom Reyes, his employer Star Trail Inc. and Rainbow Ryders, the company Reyes was contracting with during the fiesta. The women had booked the flight with Rainbow Ryders.
The lawsuit states: “… the defendants are directly liable for their intentional, reckless and negligent acts.”
Reyes and Rainbow Ryders could not be reached for comment.
Fiesta spokeswoman Kathie Leyendecker said fiesta officials did not know about the lawsuit and would not comment. An official for Star Trail Inc. also was unaware of the lawsuit but noted that the accident was still under investigation by federal officials.
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