NEW YORK – A giant balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade snagged a street light and caused part of it to fall, injuring a woman and a child.
The accident happened in Times Square near the end of the nationally televised parade when the tethers on the "M&M's Chocolate Candies" balloon became entangled on the head of the street lamp and knocked it off.
"It happened so fast," said parade spectator Karim Simmons. "It dropped like a rock."
The accident marred the holiday celebration but the injuries were less serious than in the parade eight years ago when another balloon knocked over a lightpost, critically injuring a woman and prompting changes in parade rules.
The 26-year-old woman and 11-year-old girl who were hit Wednesday were identified by police as sisters from Albany. The girl was treated for minor scrapes on the side of her head. The woman, who was in a wheelchair, needed six stitches on the back of her head. Both were released from a hospital by late afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.
"We should be thankful none were more seriously hurt," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The crew handling the balloon was apparently trying to correct its course after a gust when it became entangled with the light, Bloomberg said. The National Weather Service said the wind speed in Central Park at 11 a.m. was 10 mph, with gusts up to 21 mph.
The circumstances were an echo of the 1997 accident, when 45 mph winds blew a "Cat in the Hat" balloon into a metal pole on Central Park West.
As a result of that accident, balloon handlers were ordered to be given more training, and guidelines were set to ground balloons if the winds were too strong. Streetlights were also redesigned, including the one broken Thursday.
Parade organizers were given the go-ahead to use the balloons this year, but ordered them tethered on shorter lines because of moderate breezes at the parade's start.
The Macy's parade started in 1924 and has been an annual tradition, canceled only in the World War II years of 1942 to 1944.
The balloons, including Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer, the parade's first Latina balloon character, shared top billing with 10 marching bands, 27 floats and performers such as LeAnn Rimes, Aaron Neville and Kristin Chenoweth.
Among those watching was 85-year-old Ron Kahn, who took pictures while perching on a ladder.
"This is wonderful. It's part of New York," Kahn said.
Sayra Hernandez watched from a side street with her son, Lucas, 4, sitting on her shoulders.
"It seems better on TV, maybe more glamorous, not this hectic," said Hernandez, 30, of Manhattan. "But the smile on my kid's face is priceless."