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Thirteen in Ballooning Accident Linked Arms Before Fatal Plunge

August 14, 1989

ALICE SPRINGS, Australia (AP) _ Most of the 13 people on a hot-air balloon that collided with another over the Australian outback locked arms before plummeting 2,000 feet to their death, authorities said.

An aviation expert called Sunday’s accident the worst ballooning tragedy in the 206-year history of the sport.

The victims were 11 Australians, an Italian and a Dane, police said.

All balloon flights around Alice Springs, a central Outback town, were canceled while police and aviation authorities investigated the crash.

The accident occurred after the balloon, one of four on a sightseeing trip, rose quickly under a second, struck it, then started to shake, said Germany’s Irene Fielder, who was on her first balloon ride when she witnessed the accident.

A hole the size of a bed sheet was torn in the cavernous red and black striped canopy, according to another report.

Authorities said three of the victims apparently tried to save themselves by jumping out at the moment of impact. The other 10 were found huddled, arms linked, in the woven basket attached to the canopy.

The balloon plunged to the ground in about 30 seconds, said Mike Crofts, who was in another balloon. ″They didn’t stand a chance,″ he said.

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