Hot air balloon carrying 16 crashes in Texas: No survivors

A hot air balloon, carrying 16 passengers caught fire and crashed in central Texas on Saturday, leaving no survivors. The hot air balloon was seen engulfed in flames by witnesses, FAA investigators are on their way to the crash site.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Police vehicles block road leading up to crash site. Up to 16 people are feared dead after a large hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in central Texas on Saturday, July 30, 2016

Texas state police confirmed that 16 people died on Saturday in the crash of a hot-air balloon, which eyewitnesses said struck power transmission lines and burst into flames before plunging into a pasture.

The accident occurred shortly after 7:40 am local time (1240 GMT), when the balloon crashed into a field near Lockhart, around 30 miles south of Austin, Lynn Lunsford of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement.

"It does not appear at this time that there were any survivors of the crash," the Caldwell County sheriff's office said, which received an emergency call about a possible accident.

"When the Emergency Responders and the Sheriff's Office arrived on the scene, it was apparent that the reported fire was the basket portion of a hot air balloon," it added in a statement posted on Twitter.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety later confirmed that 16 people were dead.

The spokesman said the balloon probably belonged to a tour group that offers hot-air balloon rides.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott offered condolences to those affected by the crash.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, as well as the Lockhart community," he said in a statement.

A photo posted on social media apparently depicting the accident showed a balloon in the air with huge flames spurting underneath.

Margaret Wylie, an area resident, told reporters she believed that before the balloon crashed, it hit high power lines, which caused popping sounds like a gun going off.

"It went up like a big fireball," she told reporters, adding the chase group for the balloon arrived on the scene after the sheriff's department.

The crash of the balloon is the deadliest on record in the Western Hemisphere, said Jeff Chatterton, a spokesman for the Balloon Federation of North America.

"There are thousands of balloons that go up every year," he said. "This is unspeakably tragic but it is rather unique."

FAA investigators are on their way to the site, Lunsford said, with the National Transportation Safety Board taking charge of the probe.

The accident occurred about three years after 19 people, mostly Asian and European tourists, were killed in a hot air balloon crash in Luxor, Egypt.