When I first came across articles discussing "The Balloonfest tragedy in Cleveland" I assumed the reports were referring to something involving hot air balloon mishaps and people dying.
But Balloonfest '86 had nothing to do with hot air balloons- it was a fundraising event for United Way of Cleveland, Ohio, where 1.5 million balloons were launched to set the world record for most balloons launched in a single day.
Adverse weather conditions caused most of the balloons to drift back down to earth, with many landing in Lake Erie where they impeded the Coast Guard's search for two fishermen who disappeared during a subsequent storm. They were later found drowned, and the balloons from the event were blamed for the Coast Guard's failure to find them in time.
This tragic tale of a fundraising stunt gone wrong is well told in Nathan Truesdell's short documentary "Balloonfest":
-Via Laughing Squid