British tribunal clears soldier of balloon death
13 July 2005, MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - A British military tribunal in Germany Tuesday dropped manslaughter charges against a lance corporal in connection with the freak accident two years ago when a runaway helium balloon swept away a 5-year-old English girl during a sudden storm.
13 July 2005
MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - A British military tribunal in Germany Tuesday dropped manslaughter charges against a lance corporal in connection with the freak accident two years ago when a runaway helium balloon swept away a 5-year-old English girl during a sudden storm.
Military Judge Jack Blackett accepted the prosecution lawyer's request to drop charges after expert witness testimony that the corporal could have done nothing to save the girl.
While the corporal had secured the balloon only with a nylon rope rather than cable, the experts said the storm gusts would have severed even a reinforced cable. Thus, the corporal's actions made no difference.
It was during a NATO summer picnic for British forces in the Moenchengladbach area in June 2003 that Isobel Victoria Callaghan died when unexpected storm winds ripped the balloon from its moorings and carried her 50 kilometres.
British investigators said Isobel became entangled in a mooring line and was not strapped into the balloon basket, as had been claimed initially.
Eyewitness testimony and grim evidence from an autopsy indicate that a mooring line somehow became wrapped around one of her arms, dragging her aloft when the storm wrenched the cable loose from the moorings.
As expected, the autopsy by a British pathologist showed that Isobel, whose mangled body was found in the balloon wreckage 50 kilometres from the picnic site, died of severe trauma inflicted by the ordeal. She was very likely knocked unconscious very early into the tragedy and thus spared undue suffering.
Storm winds carried the balloon some 30 miles before the deflated air sack snagged electrical power lines, dashing the basket to the ground.
The balloon ascensions were a prime attraction for families during the NATO open house in Moenchengladbach on what had started out as a balmy summer's afternoon.
Tethered to the ground, the balloon was allowed to rise over tree- top level before being winched back to earth. Occupants were securely buckled in the balloon's basket.
The storm, packing torrential rain, hail and winds gusting up to 160 kph, tore the balloon from its anchor platform, sending it aloft with the girl dangling from its lines as festival-goers watched in horror.
Subject: German news