ELOY, AZ – A fatal hot air balloon crash took place in Eloy, Arizona, on Sunday morning. Four people lost their lives, and one person is reported to be critically injured. The Eloy Police Department confirmed the incident.
Of the thirteen people on board the hot air balloon, eight were skydivers. Upon encountering issues with the balloon, the skydivers managed to exit and land safely. The remaining four passengers and the pilot suffered the brunt of the crash.
The deceased passengers were identified as Chayton Wiescholek, 28, from Union City, Michigan; Kaitlynn Bartom, 28, from Andrews, Indiana; and Atahan Kiliccote, 24, from Cupertino, California. The pilot, Cornelius Van Der Walt, 37, also succumbed to the crash. The survivor, 23-year-old Valerie Stutterheim from Scottsdale, Arizona, is currently in critical condition.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Kubicek BB 85 Z hot air balloon encountered an “unspecified problem with its envelope”. The investigators have found no mechanical irregularities with the balloon itself so far. They plan to examine the envelope more thoroughly for any abnormalities. Crucially, an electronic device with potential flight data and a video camera were sent to the NTSB headquarters in Washington for further examination.
Eyewitnesses indicated that the balloon appeared to oscillate vertically in flight before the crash. The NTSB is still gathering accounts from eyewitnesses.