'Number of fatalities' in Texas balloon crash; toll unclear

Jul 31, 2016, 01:01

A hot air balloon has caught fire and crashed in the USA state of Texas, probably killing everyone on board, the local sheriff says.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the Lockhart crash, about 50km south of Austin.

It is believed the 16 people were aboard for an hour-long flight arranged by the Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides company.

"It does not appear at this time that there were any survivors of the crash", Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law said in a statement following Saturday morning's crash.

The wreck occurred shortly after 8:30 Saturday morning.

"I used to think I wanted to go up in one, but after this, I don't think so", she said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified and the NTSB will be in charge of the investigation.

The FAA regulates hot air balloons, which use propane gas to heat the air that rises into the balloon and lifts it, as it regulates any other aircraft.

The sheriff's office said it was working to determine the identities of those aboard. Officials found a fire on a road that was apparently the basket portion of a hot air balloon.

The Associated Press reported that the site of the crash appeared to be directly underneath large power lines. That was the world's deadliest hot air balloon accident in at least 20 years. The land near the crash site is mostly farmland, with corn crops and grazing cattle. There is also a "row of massive high-capacity transmission lines about 4 to 5 stories tall", as you can see in the video below from a local reporter.

- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas issued this statement: "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".

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