16 believed killed in balloon incident
By LPR Staff
At a Saturday afternoon press briefing, Erik R. Grosof of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that a far-reaching Federal investigation will begin into the crash of a hot air balloon in Caldwell County on Saturday morning that was thought to have killed 16.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the famili
es of those involved in this tragedy,” Grosof said, offering assurances that resources from local, State and Federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations Evidence Team would be gathering at the crash site on Saturday evening, with a full-scale investigation slated to begin on Sunday.
The crash, which was initially reported just before 8 a.m. on Saturday, is thought to have occurred when the balloon collided with the high-power transmission lines, in the area of Jolley Road at Cistern, near the Union Pacific Railroad Tracks. Though investigators on scene have not confirmed the account, a neighbor said she heard the commotion.
“I heard a pop, and I came out on the front porch,” said Margaret Wylie, who lives some 500 yards from the scene. “And then I heard another pop – it sounded like gunshots. And then I saw the fireball, and I thought that it was a tractor, and I just started praying that whoever was involved got away before that happened.”
Wylie said she saw a tower of fire rise from the scene several hundred feet high, and immediately dialed 9-1-1.
“After that,” she said, “I just went inside and waited for the fire department to come.”
It was only later, after the “chase team” arrived on scene, that she said she realized what had happened.
Neither Grosof nor Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel C. Law could confirm the number of fatalities, but said they expected all aboard were killed.
It is unclear at this time where the balloon launched, or who owned it. Wylie said, however, her neighbor reported to her it was a balloon that can often be seen gracing the skies of Caldwell County. There is no word on the victims at this time, but we understand that steps are being taken to provide support services as relatives are contacted.
Follow the Post-Register online for additional details on this story as they become available.