According to Federal Aviation Administration, a hot air balloon with 16 passengers crashed in Central Texas. Sky News and the Associated Press report that all 16 of the passengers died when the balloon caught fire and crashed into a pasture in Lockhart, Texas, about 30 miles from the capital city of Austin.
FAA official Lynn Lunsford said that the crash occurred around 7:40 a.m. local time on Saturday, and that both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were en route to Lockhart to investigate the crash. The NTSB will take charge of the investigation from there. Lunsford did not say if there was any kind of distress call received before the crash.
According to Fox, Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law said that the a call came into his office Saturday morning reporting a possible vehicle crash. Emergency officials discovered a fire when they arrived on the scene, and soon determined that it was the basket portion of the balloon. It's unclear if the fire was on the road or in the pasture that the balloon reportedly crashed into.
The names of the victims and the owner of the balloon have not been released, and the sheriff's office would or could not comment on what relationship the people in the balloon had to each other.
According to Law:
The balloon was occupied and it does not appear at this time that there were any survivors of the crash. Investigators are determining the number and the identities of victims at this time.
As NBC noted, if the death toll from this crash is confirmed, it will be the deadliest hot air balloon accident since 2013, when a balloon caught fire while traveling over Luxor, Egypt. Nineteen of the 21 people on board died in that incident.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued this statement late Saturday morning:
Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences for all of those who have been affected by today's heartbreaking tragedy. Our 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 Texans to join us in praying for those lost.
Some news reports are saying that the balloon crash could have started from a fire in the basket, but officials have not determined the official cause of the crash. There will certainly be more details as investigators determine what happened.