In 1986, organizers with United Way of Cleveland thought they had the perfect idea to generate a little publicity and create a beautiful spectacle in the process. With a crowd of volunteers working all hours, they filled 1.5 million helium balloons, and released them all at once. Unfortunately, they had no idea the terrible consequences they would unleash by doing so, and their tragic mistake led to the deaths of two people and millions of dollars in damages through lawsuits.
In 1986, the United Way attempted to break the world record for balloon launches, by releasing 1.5 million balloons in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
It was supposed to be a triumphant publicity stunt, but unfortunately, it was about to go terribly wrong.
A storm was moving in from the Great Lakes that day, and the winds pushed the balloons back down over the city.
With nowhere to go, the sky was filled with an impenetrable cloud of balloons.
Tragically, two people died when Coast Guard helicopters were unable to reach their overturned boat. They simply couldn’t fly in the skies filled with 1.5 million balloons.
The crew of the coast guard search and rescue helicopter said they felt like they were flying through an asteroid field.
The whole event was supposed to be a fundraiser for charity, but ended up costing the city millions in lawsuits, and created cleanup headaches for weeks.