x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pilot jailed for balloon crash deaths

Polish balloonist given one-year sentence and ordered to pay Dh400,000 in blood money after two died and one was seriously injured in desert crash landing.

Piotr Gorny was sentenced in Al Ain Criminal Court. He is the only person to be charged in the fatal accident.
Piotr Gorny was sentenced in Al Ain Criminal Court. He is the only person to be charged in the fatal accident.

ABU DHABI // The pilot of a hot-air balloon that crashed in Al Ain in April, killing two people, has been sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay Dh400,000 in blood money, according to court officials. Piotr Gorny, from Poland, was sentenced in Al Ain Criminal Court. He was at the controls of the balloon on April 25 as it came in for an emergency landing about 50km outside Al Ain.

The tourists Jean-Pierre Chamignon, 53, of France, and Mukesh Shah, 56, of India, were killed as the craft hit the ground and dragged for hundreds of metres. Each of the victims' families will get Dh200,000 in blood money, according to a source at the court. Gorny, who was also fined Dh20,000, is the only person convicted of any offence relating to the crash of the Cameron Z-425 balloon, which was operated by Balloon Adventures Emirates. The company has been forbidden from flying as the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) continues its investigation.

The firm's owner, Peter Kollar, declined to comment on the conviction, saying the case was under appeal. He has left the UAE but would not say whether he intended to return. The Polish consulate confirmed Gorny had been arrested and charged, but said it had not been informed of the verdict. Relatives of the victims said they felt Mr Kollar was partly responsible for the accident. He was twice convicted of breaching safety standards while running a ballooning business in New Zealand.

Records released in New Zealand show that his firm was subject to 15 official complaints over 12 years up to 2003. In one incident, in 1995, three people died. Mr Kollar has claimed that he was the victim of a vendetta by the New Zealand aviation authorities.