July 16, 2016 – A hot air balloon carrying 16 people caught fire and crashed on Saturday in Central Texas, leaving no survivors. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the balloon crashed near some power lines at around 8:40am ET, 7:40am local time near the town of Lockhart.
According to Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law, the hot air balloon was occupied and likely there were no any survivors of the crash. According to his statement, investigators are determining the identities and exact number of victims at this time.
According to the Facebook account of the company owner, Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides was the one operating the balloon. In a recorded phone message, the company said that its chief pilot and owner, Skip, along with the passengers, was killed in the crash. The recording also said that following the tragic loss of their beloved chief pilot and owner skip and their passengers that morning, it’s necessary to cancel all booked flights for the foreseeable future. The company wants people to understand that they are already dealing with all the immediate circumstances of the tragedy and that their prayers and thoughts go out to the families and friends of those who passed away with their chief pilot, Skip.
A short time later, Gov. Gregg Abbott of Texas weighed in on what he called a seemingly heartbreaking tragedy. According to Abbott’s statement, their prayers and thoughts are with the families of the victims, and the Lockhart community as well. He added that the investigation into the cause of the accident will continue and he asks all of Texas to join them in praying for those lost.
Margaret Wylie, whose house is near the crash site about 30 mi south of Austin, said that she knew something was not right when she heard a strange pop.
According to her, she looked and the next thing she saw was a big fireball. Wylie thinks the pops she heard was the hot air balloon connecting with the power lines.
However, an NTSB spokesman, Chris O’Neil, said it was too early to speculate about the cause. According to him, they go through their investigative process without any preconceived notions and the facts lead the where they lead them.
O’Neil said thirteen investigators had already been dispatched to Texas and in 10 days, a preliminary report would be released. On the other hand, a conclusive report on the balloon crash could take more than one year.