Sunday, June 5, 2011

Macy's mishap

As a result of a conversation with my Mom last night, I have confirmed that no one has been killed by a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. The accident that she remembered occurred in 1997. Kathleen Caronna, standing at 72d St. and Central Park West, handed her 8-month-old son to her husband. Seconds later, high winds caused the 6-story Cat in the Hat balloon (2nd image) to strike a lamppost. Its horizontal metal arm broke off and hit Caronna in the head, fracturing her skull and sending her into a month-long coma, which left her with brain damage and impaired vision. She sued Macy's and the city for $395 million, but settled for an undisclosed amount in 2001. In 2006, a small single-engine plane being flown by New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor Tyler Stanger slammed into a 40-story condominium high-rise on Manhattan's Upper East Side, killing them both. The aircraft followed the usual flight corridor along the East River before descending through a hazy sky and striking the Belaire, sending flames and black smoke from 4 windows on the 30th and 31st floors - and destroying the (unoccupied) bedroom of none other than Kathleen Caronna.

In 2005, balloon handlers lost control of a 50-foot-tall M&M balloon. Swinging from side to side, the balloon impaled itself on a light fixture, part of which fell into the crowd that included Mary and Sarah Chamberlain, watching the parade with their family from a traffic island in Times Square. Between them, the sisters suffered a chipped tooth, a cut that needed stitches, and some bruises. Instead of pursuing litigation, the Chamberlains accepted the apologies of the parade organizers, who gratefully paid their medical bills and offered them seats in the exclusive grandstand for future parade viewings. "They're the only family who ever became famous for not suing,'' said parade director Robin Hall. Guess what the girls also received? A lifetime supply of M&M's!

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