16 feared dead after hot air balloon crashes in Texas

Sixteen people were feared dead Saturday after a hot air balloon caught on fire and crashed in Central Texas, officials said.

Erik Grosof with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the scene and confirmed there were “a number of fatalities.”

Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law said earlier that his office received a 911 call at 7:44 a.m. local time reporting a possible vehicle accident at a spot near Lockhart, Texas.

He said when emergency responders and deputies arrived on the scene it was apparent that the reported fire was the basket portion of a hot air balloon.

“The balloon was occupied and it does not appear at this time that there were any survivors of the crash,” the sheriff said. “Investigators are determining the number and the identities of victims at this time.”

The balloon was carrying 16 people, officials said.

A witness told reporters she saw a “fireball” in the sky before the crash.

“I just stepped out on the back porch and I heard one pop and then I heard another. It sounded like gunshots,” the woman said. “The next thing I saw was a big fireball over there.”

She said she called 911.

Lynn Lunsford with the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the accident happened when the hot air balloon caught fire and crashed into a pasture.

The land near the crash site is mostly farmland, with corn crops and grazing cattle, The Associated Press reported.

Cutting through that farmland is a row of massive, high-capacity transmission lines, and the site of the crash appears to be right below the overhead lines.

Texas Governor Greg Abbot called the crash a “heartbreaking tragedy.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, as well as the Lockhart community,” he said.

Lockhart is about 30 miles south of Austin.

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