Hot Balloon hit power lines before crashing in Texas field, killing 16
NTSB: Balloon hit power lines before crashing in Texas field, killing 16
LOCKHART, Texas – A hot air balloon hit high-tension power lines before crashing into a pasture in Central Texas, killing all 16 on board, according to federal authorities investigating the worst such disaster in U.S. history.
A power line was tripped at 7:42 a.m. Saturday, and the first call to 911 came a minute later, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said during a news conference. The crash site was near a row of high-tension power lines, and aerial photos showed an area of scorched land underneath.
"There is physical evidence to indicate that the balloon, or some component of the balloon, hit the physical wires themselves and not the tower," Sumwalt said.
The NTSB will look at several factors including reports of foggy weather, but is concentrating first on gathering evidence such as witness statements.
The pilot was Skip Nichols, 49, according to Alan Lirette, who identified Nichols as his best friend, roommate and boss. Lirette said he helped launch the balloon. The NTSB has not yet publicly identified the pilot or the passengers.
Matt Rowan and his wife, Sunday Rowan, were among those on board, his brother Josh Rowan said. The recently married couple from San Antonio, both 34, had texted family and posted on social media pictures of the balloon set up, the rising sun and them in the basket.
"It's a bit haunting now," Josh Rowan told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The NTSB said the balloon was run by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides. Nichols' Facebook page identifies him as the chief pilot.