1965 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon accident

Written by Staff Writer

The July 1964 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade may have been a disaster, as 41 people died and nearly 400 more were injured when a hot air balloon collided with a float, injuring as many as 1,500 spectators.

The balloon was sponsored by Volkswagen of America (then better known as Volkswagen of America Inc.) and spotted along the parade route, carrying an ad for the brand’s Beetle, as well as an actress dressed in a cartoon superhero costume. After it successfully passed the crowd, however, it collided with another hot air balloon, spinning and subsequently dashing the actress.

After a more-than-hour investigation, it was determined that a mechanical failure — either an early breakdown in the balloon’s lift cord or in its motor — was the cause. The balloon was quickly deflated and lifted off the ground, and 12 other balloons which had fallen with it were allowed to proceed to the end of the parade route.

In the near 40 years since the incident, however, people have continued to ask, should balloons be outlawed from the parade?

CNN travel correspondent David Simpson takes a look at the history of this infamous balloon mishap.

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