Check out what a bad idea can do, in 1986 1.5 million balloons were released in Cleveland causing total havoc and maybe even 2 deaths according to reports!
In 1986, Cleveland proved once and for all that balloons, held by most of us to be a symbol of festivities and celebration, can also serve as surreal and terrifying proof that there can be too much of a good thing.
It all started with the superficially awesome but fundamentally disastrous goal of setting the world record for simultaneously-released helium balloons. Photographer Thom Sheridan captured images of this beautiful but eventually catastrophic event. This feat, which involved filling 1.5 million latex balloons with helium and capturing them under a massive net, was dubbed Balloonfest ’86. It was organized by United Way as a sort of charity event, but the unexpectedly chaotic event wound up causing more in damages than it raised.
The event in which the United Way of Cleveland in Ohio set a world record by releasing one and a half million balloons. While it was originally intended to be a fundraising publicity stunt, unintended consequences caused the balloons to drift back over the city and land in the surrounding area and Lake Erie, as well as interfere with traffic at a nearby airport. The event also interfered with a United States Coast Guard search for two boaters who were later found drowned. The event resulted in lawsuits against organizers and the city seeking millions of US dollars for damages.
1.5 Million Balloons Create Total Havoc In Cleveland
As cooler air and rain collided with the helium balloons, they returned to the ground and waterways of Northeast Ohio. Balloons also washed ashore on the Canadian side of Lake Erie in the days following the event.
Two fishermen, Raymond Broderick and Bernard Sulzer, had gone out on September 26 and when they failed to return, were reported missing by their families the day of the event. Their 16-foot boat was found anchored just west of the Edgewater Park breakwall. The Coast Guard guessed it had capsized in choppy waters and the men had tried to swim to the breakwall, while the boat later righted itself. The crew of a Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter attempting to rescue the fishermen had difficulties reaching the boat, and said they felt like they were flying through an asteroid field. When they arrived, they were unable to tell the difference between the drowning boaters and the balloons that covered the surface of the water. On September 29, the Coast Guard suspended its search. Within a couple of weeks, the fishermen’s bodies washed ashore. The wife of one of the fishermen who drowned sued the United Way of Cleveland and the company that organized the event for $3.2 million and settled for undisclosed terms.
Balloons landing on a pasture in Medina County, Ohio, spooked Louise Nowakowsk’s Arabian horses, which consequently suffered permanent injuries. Nowakowsk sued the United Way of Cleveland for $100,000 in damages and settled for undisclosed terms.
Burke Lakefront Airport had to shut down a runway after balloons landed there.