31 Jul 2016

No survivors in Texas balloon crash

1:08 pm on 31 July 2016

All 16 people on board a hot air balloon that caught fire and crashed in the American state of Texas are confirmed dead.

It's not clear what caused the crash near Lockhart, south of the city of Austin, but several witnesses said they saw it colliding with a powerline before catching fire.

a police vehicle blocking a road where a hot air balloon crashed near Lockhart, Texas, July 30, 2016. Sixteen people are feared to have died

Police block the road where a hot air balloon crashed near Lockhart, Texas. Photo: AFP

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) statement said the balloon came down in a field at about 7.40am local time.

The sheriff's statement said that when emergency crews arrived, the basket of the hot air balloon was on fire.

FAA investigators will conduct an initial investigation and the inquiry will eventually be taken over by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Videos and stills posted by local media appeared to show that the balloon came down beneath tall power lines, but the cause is not yet known.

It is the deadliest hot air balloon crash in the US.

Local resident Margaret Wylie was outside her home when she heard two "pops" which she thought was a gun going off.

"The next thing I knew you saw a big fireball go up. I was just praying that whoever was there got away from the thing in time," she said.

A Fox News reporter at the scene said contact was lost with the balloon about half an hour into a scheduled one-hour flight.

He said the balloon was believed to have belonged to the Heart of Texas Balloon Rides, an Austin-based company that offers trips to see the sunrise with champagne.

Two years ago, the NTSB called for better regulation of hot air balloon flights in the US, recommending they should be subject to the same oversight as tour planes and helicopters.

"The potential for a high number of fatalities in a single air tour balloon accident is of particular concern if air tour balloon operators continue to conduct operations under less stringent regulations and oversight," it said.

  • February 2013: A hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in Luxor, Egypt, killing 19 foreign tourists
  • August 2012: Six people died and another 26 were injured when a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed near Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital
  • January 2012: A hot air balloon struck power lines and caught fire near Carterton in the Wairarapa, before crashing to the ground - all 11 people on board were killed.
  • October 2009: Four Dutch tourists died in Guangxi, China, after a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed
  • August 2001: A hot air balloon touched a power line in south-west France, killing six people