Friend of balloon pilot says 16 total on board
Evidence shows some part of the hot air balloon made contact with high-tension power lines before crashing into a central Texas pasture, killing all 16 on board. That’s according to federal authorities who are investigating the worst such disaster in U.S. history.
Robert Sumwalt with the National Transportation Safety Board says a power line was tripped at 7:42 a.m. Saturday, and the first call to 911 came a minute later. The crash site was near a row of high-tension power lines, and aerial photos showed an area of scorched land underneath.
Sumwalt also says the Caldwell County Sheriff told him it was foggy after the accident, which happened about 30 miles south of Austin, but it’s unclear what the weather was like during the flight itself.
The pilot was 49-year-old Skip Nichol. That’s according to Alan Lirette, who identified Nichols as his best friend, roommate and boss. Lirette says he helped launch the balloon, which was carrying a total of 16 people, none of them children. The NTSB has not yet identified the pilot or the passengers.
The NTSB says the balloon was run by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides.
Records indicate that the apparent pilot was federally certified to fly balloons.