A tragic hot-air balloon accident has claimed the lives of at least 16 people in central Texas today. The hot-air balloon, which caught fire in mid-air, crashed near Lockhart, Texas, about 30 miles south of Austin. According to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, there were no survivors in the crash. Officials have not yet formally confirmed the death toll.
— Chris Shadrock (@ChrisShadrock) July 30, 2016
The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the crash, and according to reports from CNN, the investigation process is already underway. The latest information on the crash has alluded to the fact that the balloon may have struck power lines. Caldwell County Judge Ken Schawe told reporters that the information available to the public, and to law enforcement alike, is very limited at this time, but it appears the balloon very well may have hit a power line prior to catching fire and crashing to the ground.
Sources from the Texas Department of Public Safety said that investigators do consider the power line collision to be the preliminary working theory in the case. The official investigation will seek to determine the cause of the crash, including the possibility of operator error or equipment malfunction.
Mark Dombroff explained exactly how the crash investigation will play out during an interview with CNN affiliates.
Police officers from the area responded to a 911 call that took place at about 8:45 a.m. ET, concerning a possible auto accident in the Maxwell area. Upon arrival on scene, police officers found the balloon basket on fire on the ground.
Margaret Wylie, who lives near the crash site, told CNN that she first heard of whooshing sound, “and then a big ball of fire (went) up. I’d say it got as high up as those lower electric lines.”
A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board said the accident involved a “significant loss of life” during a brief news conference earlier this afternoon. However, the spokesperson would not give an exact number of fatalities. The National Transportation Safety Board is also working with the FBI to document the scene and investigate evidence pertaining to the crash. If the official death count does in fact turn out to be 16, the incident will mark the highest number of deaths in a single hot-air balloon crash in the nation.
Watch video of CNN’s earlier report on the crash below.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, released a statement pertaining to the crash.
“Heidi and I lift up in prayer all who have been impacted by today’s tragic accident in Lockhart and send our condolences to all who have lost their loved ones. As always, Texans are strong in the face of adversity, and we all stand together in support of the families and entire Lockhart community as they respond to and begin to heal from this terrible incident.”
— Talk 1370 (@TALK1370) July 30, 2016
No information has yet been released pertaining to the victims. Their identities have, thus far, been withheld. We can presume that the public release of the victims’ names will not take place until after all of the victims have been successfully identified and their family members have been notified.
BREAKING NEWS: Report: 16 killed in Texas hot air balloon crash. pic.twitter.com/nLqu5VpqtQ
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 30, 2016
The Inquisitr family sends heartfelt condolences to the family members and loved ones of those involved in today’s crash and those additionally impacted by these tragic events. This is a developing news story, stay tuned here for more information as the investigation into this tragedy unfolds.
[Photo by Ashcroft Media/Getty Images]