your connection to The Boston Globe

Parade mishap injures two

Woman, girl hit when balloon snags on light

NEW YORK -- A giant ''M&M's Chocolate Candies" balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade snagged a street light and caused part of it to fall, injuring a woman and a child.

The accident happened in Times Square near the end of the nationally televised parade when the tethers on the balloon became entangled on the head of the street lamp and knocked it off.

''It happened so fast," said parade spectator Karim Simmons. ''It dropped like a rock."

The accident marred the holiday celebration but the injuries were less serious than in the parade eight years ago, when another balloon knocked over a lightpost, critically injuring a woman and prompting changes in parade rules.

The 26-year-old woman and 11-year-old girl who were hit yesterday were identified by police as sisters from Albany. The girl was treated for minor scrapes on the side of her head. The woman, who was in a wheelchair, needed six stitches on the back of her head. Both were released from a hospital by late afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.

''We should be thankful none were more seriously hurt," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The crew handling the balloon was apparently trying to correct its course after a gust when it snagged on the light, Bloomberg said. The National Weather Service said the wind speed in Central Park at 11 a.m. was 10 miles per hour, with gusts up to 21 miles per hour.

The circumstances were an echo of the 1997 accident, when 45 mile-per-hour winds blew a ''Cat in the Hat" balloon into a metal pole on Central Park West.

As a result of that accident, balloon handlers were ordered to be given more training, and guidelines were set to ground balloons if the winds were too strong. Streetlights were also redesigned, including the one involved yesterday.

Parade organizers were given the go-ahead to use the balloons this year, but ordered them tethered on shorter lines because of moderate breezes at the parade's start.

The Macy's parade started in 1924 and has been an annual tradition, canceled only in the World War II years 1942 to 1944.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives