At least 16 people have lost their lives this weekend in a fiery hot air balloon accident just south of Austin. This tragic accident is being described as the worst such disaster in U.S. history.
The accident occurred around 7:40 A.M in a pasture in Lockhart, which is 30 miles outside of Austin. Four to five-story electrical transmission lines cut through this area of farmland. A witness who lives a quarter mile from the crash site told reporters that she heard a series of loud popping noises on the morning of the accident, and saw a fireball rising up underneath the power lines. She immediately called 911.
The balloon was operated by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides, which offers rides in the Austin, Houston, and San Antonio areas. It appears that the operation is not registered with the state of Texas.
Two years ago, safety investigators urged the Federal Aviation Administration to impose greater oversight on commercial hot air balloon operators, proposing that they require permission to operate and that they be subject to FAA safety inspections. The FAA rejected the recommendations, stating that the risks were too low. The National Transportation Safety Board classified the FAA’s response as “open-unacceptable,” showing clear dissatisfaction with this response. This weekend’s accident could potentially cause the FAA to reconsider the NTSB’s safety recommendations.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation and the names of those on board have not been released. Investigators are currently still trying to determine exactly how many people were on board the aircraft.
The Daspit Law Firm extends its deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the victims of this tragic accident, and hope that swift action is taken to prevent these types of accidents from happening again in the future.
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