(RepublicanView.org) – Four people died when a hot air balloon crashed into the Arizona desert on January 14. Thirteen people, including eight skydivers and four passengers, were on board when the balloon came down near the town of Eloy. Police later identified those who died as 28-year-old Chayton Wiescholek from Union City, Michigan, 28-year-old Kaitlynn Bartom from Andrews, Indiana, and 24-year-old Atahan Kiliccote from Cupertino, California. The pilot, 37-year-old Cornelius Van Der Walt, was also killed, and a 23-year-old woman from Scottsdale survived but was taken to hospital in critical condition.
The cause of the crash is unknown, but immediate investigations revealed no abnormalities in the structure of the balloon and no indicators that the basket was not securely attached. According to AP News, authorities indicated an “unspecified problem” with the balloon may have caused the crash.
The balloon trip was hosted by local operator Droplyne Hot Air Balloon Rides, and the pilot was described as highly experienced and “super careful,” as reported to ABC15. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) will work with the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the exact cause of the tragedy.
According to Seattle Ballooning, the FAA rates hot air balloon travel as among the safest forms of air transport and says crashes or accidents are rare. It’s been reported that driving a car is far more likely to result in injury than hot air ballooning. Experts say that one of the reasons for their high safety level is that they only travel in mild weather and ideal conditions.
Nevertheless, incidents still occur. Between 2000 and 2011, there were 164 hot air balloon accidents in the US, resulting in five fatalities. The deadliest incident ever recorded took place in Luxor, Egypt, in 2013, when 19 passengers died. The balloon suffered from an oil leakage mid-flight, which caught fire. Seven passengers jumped to their deaths to escape the flames, while the remaining twelve were on board when the device exploded in midair. The pilot and maintenance engineer were arrested and charged with negligence, and the Egyptian government temporarily banned hot air balloons from its skies.
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