3. Cat in the Hat Crash Leads to Size Rules, 1997
As carefully detailed by the New York Times, 39-mph winds caused a six-story Cat in the Hat balloon to crash into a lamppost at 72nd street and Central Park West at the 1997 parade. The incident caused debris to fall, injuring four people. One of the victims was in a 24-day coma.
After the parade, Macy’s promised to increase training for its balloon handlers and paid for the replacement of dozens of lampposts so that they’d be less likely to be snagged by future balloon ropes and could avoid future Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon mishaps. In addition, a government panel recommended certain restrictions on the size and functioning of parade balloons, as well as more regulation of the parade by the city itself. The spectator who suffered brain damage sued the city for $395 million and settled for an “undisclosed sum” four years later.