NTSB: Balloon Likely Hit Power Lines
The NTSB said Sunday that the hot air balloon that crashed in Texas early Saturday killing 16 people likely hit power lines before the balloon's basket crashed to the ground. Although witnesses reported hearing popping sounds and seeing a fireball, it still hasn't been determined whether the fire occurred before or after the balloon appeared to have struck the lines.
The balloon's envelope was found three-quarters of a mile from the basket crash site, suggesting it maintained buoyancy after the basket parted. NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said the balloon traveled about eight miles from its takeoff point and that the takeoff was delayed 20 minutes due to weather. But Sumwalt didn't say if weather is considered a factor in the crash, the worst ballooning accident in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, investigators on the scene were continuing to collect evidence, including cellphones, cameras and tablets from the victims, which may contain information useful to investigators. "We're looking at operation of the balloon, pilot, and the company that operated the balloon," Sumwalt said during a press briefing in Texas. The balloon was operated by a company called Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides. The crash site is about 30 miles south of Austin near the town of Lockhart.