BREAKING STORY: 10:00 am (CST), July 30, 2016
The Caldwell County, Texas Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Saturday that investigators are determining the number of victims in a hot air balloon crash that occurred in Lockhart today near Austin. The number of victims is believed to be sixteen. Sheriff Daniel Law said the accident took place around 7:44 am today. The balloon apparently caught fire during flight and came to rest under some power lines. The occupants were approximately 20 minutes into the flight when the fire broke out.
The crash is thought to have occurred when the balloon collided with the high-power transmission lines. A full investigation conducted by state and federal investigators is expected to be conducted.
The National Transportation Board and the FAA have been concerned about hot air balloon rides since they have been gaining in popularity. Unlike the rigid safety rules and regular inspections that apply to the airline industry, standards are more relaxed in the balloon business. The number of passengers on a particular balloon ride is just one factor that has raised concerns. The lack of data available on the number of balloon tour flights has made tallying injuries more difficult.
Some graphic videos have surfaced that show balloon riders in distress. From 2000-2011, researchers have pointed to 78 hot-air balloon crashes in the U.S. involving 518 occupants. There were 91 serious injuries and five fatalities; 83 percent of crashes resulted in one or more severe or fatal outcome. Most of the injuries occurred during landing followed by crashes with fixed objects.