No survivors in hot air balloon crash in Texas; 16 on board

CALDWELL COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Officials said there was a “significant loss of life” after a hot air balloon crashed in a field west of Lockhart, Texas. Sixteen people were on board. Authorities say there are no survivors.

Federal investigators say multiple people were in the balloon Saturday morning when it caught fire in flight, crashing in a field just west of Lockhart around 7:40 a.m.

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesperson said at an afternoon press conference he could not confirm reports of 16 dead. He said the agency is conducting a significant investigation into this “major accident” involving the Heart of Texas Balloon Company.

A neighbor who saw the aftermath said hot air balloons are common to the area.

“I had just stepped outside on the back porch… I heard one pop before I stepped out the door, then I heard another pop. And I’m looking around to see who’s shooting — because it sounded like a gun going off — and then I looked off over there and the next thing I knew you saw a big fireball go up,” Margaret Wylie said. “I called 911 and I waited until I saw the fire department go by.”

The Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office says 911 callers initially reported a vehicle crash near the intersection of Jolly Road and Cistern Road, just off of State Highway 142, but when they arrived they determined it was the basket portion of the hot air balloon.

The FBI Evidence Response Team from San Antonio was asked by the NTSB to help at the scene of the crash, a normal practice for incidents of this size.

Lockhart is about 30 miles south of Austin.

From 2002-2012, data from the NTSB shows 16 people died in hot air balloon crashes in the United States.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said his thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, as well as the Lockhart community. “The investigation into the cause of this tragic accident will continue, and I ask all of Texas to join us in praying for those lost,” he said.

Texas State Representative and pilot John Cyrier tweeted, “Horrible accident this morning in Lockhart. I have seen and have flown by this balloon many times.”

Data from the National Transportation Safety Board shows 16 people died in hot air balloon accidents from 2002-2012.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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