Texas hot-air balloon likely struck power lines, NTSB official says

LOCKHART , Texas, Aug. 1 (UPI) — A hot-air balloon that crashed near Lockhart, Texas, likely struck power lines before it fell to the ground, a National Transportation Safety Board member said.

The accident killed all 16 people, 15 passengers and the pilot, aboard the balloon Saturday morning. NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said Sunday a fire aboard the balloon remains unexplained, and Caldwell County Justice of the Peace Matt Kiely said dental records will have to be used to identify those who died.

The balloon, operated by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloons, traveled about 8 miles from Fentress Airpark in Fentress, Texas, before it crashed into a pasture. Material from the aircraft was found three-quarters of a mile from the balloon’s basket, where all the bodies were found, Sumwalt added. He said investigators recovered at least 14 items, including cameras and cellphones, the passengers may have used to record the balloon trip. That evidence may help the NTSB determine what caused the crash.

At least 10 NTSB investigators were at the site of the crash Sunday, collecting evidence.

A private hot-air balloon pilot, Sam Wiley of San Marcos, Texas, commented at the scene Sunday, “We can’t imagine someone not seeing those power lines.”

Lynn Lunsford of the Federal Aviation Administration said the FAA is participating in the NTSB investigation, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The FAA previously declined NTSB suggestions for more regulations of hot air balloons, referring to the low amount of balloon activity.



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