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No compensation claim for horrific hot air balloon holiday accident

As Brian and Susie Lewis told the BBC Save My Holiday programme, we often do things we’d never dream of whilst on holiday such as activities with an element of risk. The Lewis’ already favoured more active holidays and were particularly taken with a walking holiday in Turkey which ended with the option to take a hot air balloon flight.

The balloon flight was the main reason why the couple booked the Turkish holiday and after enjoying the beautiful scenery at ground level, they were excited to take their end of holiday hot air balloon flight. They trusted that the company operating the flight had plenty of experience and that the pilots were qualified.

The trip went well at first – the Lewis’ were in a hot air balloon with 8 other holidaymakers and there were around 20 other hot air balloons around them, making for a spectacular sight. As the tourists took photographs however, disaster struck.

The Lewis’ hot air balloon was crashed into from above by another balloon. The basket of the second balloon ripped through the material of the Lewis’ balloon and the tear very quickly got bigger and the basket started to fall. The pilot tried to slow the descent by firing hot air into what was left of the balloon but eventually there was hardly any of the material left and the pilot ordered the tourists to adopt the brace position.

The balloon fell 300 metres and hit the ground at a speed of 30mph. Brian and Susie blacked out on impact with molten fabric dripping onto them. Of the ten holidaymakers on board one died and all nine others were airlifted to hospital with life-changing injuries.

For Susie that meant both legs broken, a shattered pelvis and four broken vertebrae in her spine. Brian also had a fractured back and broken leg. After operations and a week in hospital in Turkey the Lewis’ were brought home and spent a further ten weeks in hospital in the UK. A year later they have made an incredible recovery but still need regular physiotherapy.

The couple’s Turkish hospital bills and the cost of transporting them home were covered by their Travel Insurance. So the next question was, could they claim compensation for the accident on holiday?

Their first hurdle would be to find out who was to blame for the holiday accident so as to claim compensation from them. And, because Turkey is a non-EU country, they would have had to fight their compensation claim case in the Turkish courts and would have been liable to pay their own legal costs, win or lose. Had the holiday accident happened in an EU country they could have claimed compensation in the UK courts – far more straightforward!

So, after all the trauma of their accident on holiday and their long battle to recover, the Lewis’ decided not to claim compensation for their injuries as the battle to claim compensation in Turkey would be too complex.

If you are visiting a non-EU country and decide to take part in an activity with an element of risk, take every step possible to ensure that you will enjoy the experience, not live to regret it.

If you are injured abroad and would like to know more about claiming compensation then get in touch with our Holiday Accidents team on:

Freephone: 0808 145 1353 or drop us a line using the form above.

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Dated: 02/02/2011

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