Open Letter: Is There A Cover-Up Of The World View Explosion Report?

Pima County taxpayers picked up the tab for World View furnishings

On December 19, 2017, a hydrogen balloon exploded at the World View Spaceport built by Pima County taxpayers at a cost of $20 million.  The explosion was made public by the Arizona Daily Independent on December 20 with an online video.

On December 22 Star columnist Tim Steller reported that World View officials told him that “final results, recommendations and corrective actions, if necessary” would be available “in about 45 days.”  That would have been mid-February.

On February 8 County Administrator Charles Huckelberry sent the BOS a memo describing the damage as “superficial” even though windows and ceiling tiles a mile away were broken.  He announced that World View had commissioned an “independent investigation” led by NASA retiree Wayne Hale, stating that the County would be a participant “to verify the independence of the investigation.”  His assistant, John Voorhees, would represent the County.

Attached to that memo were damage reports from Pima County Facilities Management, Swaim Associates  and Schneider Structural Engineers  with photographs taken on December 22 and January 3 respectively.  Knowledgeable observers reviewed those and said the damage was more than superficial.

On June 13, working on a news story for the six-month anniversary of the explosion I attempted to contact Wayne Hale, World View and John Voorhees for updates.  Hale’s assistant, Yvith Murphy, refusing to comment as to whether the report was done, said, “I have no clue where it’s at.”  World View did not respond to three emails.

Voorhees, reached by phone on June 15, told us “the investigation has been concluded,” that a “Draft Report” had been completed; that the county was “reviewing the draft.”  He called it a “slow-moving ballgame,” that the county, “as landlords, we have to be deliberate and careful.”  He said the report would be given to elected officials “in another month or so,” “after review” and then it would become a public document.

That is a substantially different process than set out in the County Administrator’s February 8 memo, in which he said the report would be “made available to Pima County for our information and comment.”

The process, as it is unfolding, looks like a draft was sent to the County as long as four months ago, revisions were proposed, and there is a continuing back and forth, “a slow-moving ball game” to secretly revise the document, a negotiations of the content to make everyone look good.  That smacks of cover-up, not independent investigation, of the public being kept in the dark, of this Board of Supervisors being deliberately sidelined.

It’s worth remembering that it was not the break-in at Watergate that forced a president out of office and his minions into prison, it was the cover-up.  That the BOS has been kept out of the loop is indefensible.

The County Administrator needs to immediately provide you the original “draft” report along with the report as it stands now and any revisions made in-between.  A public comparison should be made.  If there are significant differences beyond “information and comment” then this Board must act.

If there are no differences, and the delay and secrecy are somehow bureaucratic inertia, I will appear before you again to apologize.  But we’ll need to see the documents first.

The late John Hunnicutt, founder of the Arizona Daily Independent, had as his credo,

“The truth is neither liberal nor conservative – it is the truth.”

Truth is all we ask for today.


  1. Albert, of course its a cover up of the inept management practices of World View and the mistakes that they have made. I feel the reason that the public is being stonewalled is that the original report contains damming evidence that the company used very bad practices and is a fault for major damage at the building. Anytime structural components of a building move the damage is not superficial. Also, the Huckster is deathly afraid that the report will make him and is business decisions to help the Gifford’s family look like the simple fool that he is. Perhaps this will be his Waterloo and the board will fire him??? Don’t bet on it. The Huckster has too many friends making too much money off the county and its taxpayers. BYW Albert, how many more launches has the toy balloon company done since the explosion? How many do they have scheduled? Are they on time with their rent payments? How many people do they have on the payroll actually working at the site? Inquiring minds want to know. This has all been done in the dark and the cover-up should surprise no one.

    Hope you are still hanging in there with the cancer. You are writing more which is good.

  2. Weren’t balloon rides being offered to the public? If so, that means the “accident” falls under Federal authority and the NTSB is supposed to do the investigation. Right? What happened?

  3. You go Albert! Someone has to stand up to the BOS. We are getting screwed everyday and other than Allie Miller no one is fighting for us.

  4. Don’t worry Albert, your Democrat friends on the BoS will rewrite the report. The report will read; that an act of nature caused this accident and not incompetence, that this was a one time event, that it could never happen again, no changes to Policies and Procedures are required, and damages did not exceed $5.

  5. Hey Albert – are you still happy you voted AGAIN for Bronson? Democrats never change their stripes.

    • You make an assumption that is not true — that seems to happen a lot in these comments.

  6. If it went to Pima County don’t expect to see it because it’s in a file that says hide away from everyone.

  7. No worries Albert, you won’t need to apoligize. No crow pie for you, only Chucky Egg Face Lie Pie is on the menu.
    The BOS’s must love it, seems like it’s always being served.

    The Oracle

  8. I cannot believe that all you people think that some kind of cover up and or conspiracy is going on. That would imply corruption. The citizens would never put up with that.

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