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Published on : Tuesday, August 2, 2016
The balloon may have struck power lines when it went down around 7:30 a.m. in pastureland near Lockhart, about 30 miles south of Austin, in an area often used for balloon landings, a county judge and public safety source told the media.
Federal Aviation Authority officials said the balloon carrying 16 people caught fire before crashing, but provided few other details.
The balloon collided with a power line before catching fir and crashing onto the ground. It is still not clear what caused the balloon to hit the power lines and whether a fire that broke out on the balloon happened before the collision or was caused by the power lines
After recent investigations, evidence shows that the pilot may have been trying to land when a hot air balloon crashed. Report says that pilot Alfred “Skip” Nichols used an app to send a position update to a crew following the balloon in a vehicle, normally an indication he planned to land. But he soon lost contact.
Robert Sumwalt said at a news conference that, when the ground crew could not locate the balloon or had no more communications with the pilot, they drove around for about an hour trying to call the pilot, trying to call phone numbers of passengers they had from the manifest.
Ground crew members said there were patches of fog that morning, but the weather was clear at the landing site.
The NTSB found independent records the balloon passed an annual inspection in September 2015.
Officials interviewed the three ground crew members Monday. The investigation will look at three main factors to determine the cause of the crash: the balloon, its operators and the environment.
The hot air balloon company suspended operations on Monday.
The FBI has found 14 personal electronic devices from those aboard the balloon. They include cell phones, one iPad, and three cameras.
Friends of some of the victims identified them Sunday. They include the pilot, Nichols, and newlyweds Matt and Sunday Rowan.
The NTSB has expressed concern about safety regulations in hot air balloon activities, but the Federal Aviation Administration, which sets regulations for manned balloons, hasn’t acted on the NTSB’s recommendations, said Deborah Hersman, the board’s former chairwoman.
Saturday’s crash is the most fatal hot air balloon crash in U.S. history, according to NTSB figures.