Terrible tragedy struck outside Lockhart, Texas today when a hot air balloon carrying 16 people caught fire and crashed. All 16 people are feared dead.
The FAA says the accident occurred around 7:40 a.m. The FAA and NTSB are investigating.
So far, few details are available. But several agencies, including the FBI, are assisting with the investigation. Erik Grosof of the safety board spoke with the Austin American-Statesman. “It’s much like a crime scene,” Grosof said. “You only get one chance at it so you have got to do it right.”
Officers swarmed the pasture where the balloon went down, about 30 miles south of Austin.
— Lauren Lanmon (@LaurenLanmon) July 30, 2016
The Heart Of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides company based in New Braunfels operated the balloon. One witness told the Associated Press she saw a “fireball” in the sky.
“I just stepped out on the back porch and I heard one pop and then I heard another. It sounded like gunshots,” the witness said. “The next thing I saw was a big fireball over there.”
Other witnesses first reported a possible vehicle crash. But when authorities arrived, they found the burning basket. The debris rested directly below high-voltage power lines.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott took to Twitter to express his condolences.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) July 30, 2016
Sadly, the tragedy far surpasses the highest balloon accident death toll in the United States. In 1993, six people died in a balloon crash in Colorado. No word yet on the identity of the victims. However, that information will likely stay private until they notify families.
According to their website, Heart Of Texas’ largest balloon holds 24 people.