Sunday, 31 July 2016

No Survivors as16 people were feared dead after a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in a pasture near the central Texas city of Lockhart

AUSTIN, Texas, July 30 (Reuters) - At least 16 people were feared dead after a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in a pasture near the central Texas city of Lockhart on Saturday morning, according to federal and local authorities.

"It does not appear at this time that there were any survivors of the crash," Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law said in a statement, according to his office.

Emergency responders in Texas said the fire hit the basket portion of the hot air balloon.

"Right now, we have a number of fatalities," a National Transportation Safety Board spokesman said from the scene, adding a Federal Bureau of Investigation team was being dispatched to help in evidence gathering.

The NTSB did not offer any details on what may have caused the accident, which occurred on a clear day. It said it believes the balloon belonged to a tour group that offers hot air balloon rides.

The accident is likely to be one of the deadliest hot air balloon crashes on record. It comes about three years after 19 people, mostly Asian and European tourists, were killed in a hot air balloon crash in Luxor, Egypt.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the Lockhart crash, about 30 miles (50 km) south of Austin. It did not offer any information on fatalities but said at least 16 people were on board the balloon.

The Caldwell County sheriff's office said it was working to determine the identities of those aboard.

More than a dozen police vehicles could be seen on pasture land at the site of the crash, in live video provided by Austin TV station KVUE.

The FAA said the crash took place at about 7:40 a.m. (1240 GMT).

Texas Governor Greg Abbott offered his condolences to those killed in the crash.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, as well as the Lockhart community," he said in a statement.

Lockhart is a town of about 13,000 people near state parks and home to a variety of barbecue restaurants considered to be among the best in the state.

The crash in Egypt occurred after a mid-air gas explosion.

A year before that incident, a hot air balloon burst into flames and crashed in New Zealand, killing all 11 people on board in the country's worst air accident in more than three decades. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Steve Orlofsky)

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-3716065/Hot-air-balloon-16-aboard-catches-fire-crashes-Texas.html#ixzz4Fuy4FaFg
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