(RepublicanNews.org) – Four passengers perished and one was seriously wounded when a hot air balloon crashed into the Arizona desert on Sunday, just seconds after a team of skydivers had jumped from it.
The tragic event took place at around 8 a.m. in Eloy, a community situated approximately 65 miles south of Phoenix, according to a press release from the local police department.
The Mayor of Eloy, Micah Powell, said that the balloon had thirteen individuals on board: eight skydivers, four passengers, and a balloon operator.
The balloon crashed to the ground shortly after all the skydivers had finished their intended leap from the airplane, according to Eloy Police Chief Byron Gwaltney during his press conference.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is now examining the event. Initial findings indicate that the balloon had an envelope malfunction; however, the particular nature of the problem is not yet known.
Chayton Wiescholek (28) of Michigan, Kaitlynn Bartrom (28) of Indiana, Atahan Kiliccote (24) of California, and Cornelius van der Walt (37) of Eloy, formerly from South Africa, were the four victims named by the police on January 15. The Eloy Police Department said that the pilot was Van der Walt.
The incident left 23-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona resident Valerie Stutterheim badly wounded, according to the authorities.
The close-knit city has a very large skydiving community presence.
An unidentified issue with the balloon’s envelope caused it to crash, according to the NTSB. Everything on the basket seemed to be in working order, and the NTSB did not find any mechanical abnormalities during their first inspections of the balloon. At a later time, they will disclose the details of the particular issue with the package.
According to the Eloy Police Department, they are collaborating with the FAA and NTSB in their investigation.
The NTSB identified Cameron Balloons’ A-160 passenger balloon as the aircraft. The manufacturer’s website states that the model can accommodate a pilot and a maximum of seven passengers.
The police department is asking the public to keep the victims’ loved ones in their prayers and thoughts as they continue their efforts.
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