History Minute: In 1986, a balloon release turned tragic

The city of Cleveland, Ohio thought it had found a neat way to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by releasing 1.5 million balloons into the air. But this “Ballonfest” didn’t go as planned.

In fact, the September 27, 1986 release quickly turned tragic when the balloons encountered a front of fresh air and rain, resulting in them falling to the ground while still inflated. The balloons moved over the city and Lake Erie causing traffic jams. But that’s not all, balloons have disrupted the local airport and some have even been spotted in Canada.

Worse still, the event indirectly led to the deaths of two people. Two fishermen, Raymond Broderick and Bernard Sulzer, have been missing since the day before yesterday. But the launch of the balloons caused trouble, and after two days it was abandoned due to the number of balloons covering the lake. The bodies of the two fishermen were found days later, prompting the wife of one of them to file a lawsuit against the United Way of Cleveland.

However, with 1,429,643 balloons released, the Balloonfest entered the Guinness Book of World Records as “the largest balloon launch ever recorded”.

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