The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that 16 people or more were killed in a hot air balloon crash that occurred on Saturday, July 30, making it the worst hot air balloon crash in United States history, not counting airships.
The crash occurred about 30 miles south of Austin, TX at around 7:40 a.m. on Saturday. The NTSB is still investigating the cause of the crash, but the wreckage appeared to be directly below a row of high-capacity electrical transmission lines.
According to unnamed officials, the balloon in question was operated by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides. The company offers hot air balloon rides in the Austin, San Antonio, and Houston areas, but no one from the company has been available for comment as of Monday morning.
According to the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was warned about the potential risk of accidents causing a high number of fatalities in 2014. The FAA rejected NTSB recommendations that they impose more oversight on hot air balloon tour companies. Michael Huerta, an FAA Administrator, also rejected adding regulations requiring that these companies and balloon operators get FAA permission to operate, stating that the risks were too low.
The NTSB was not satisfied with the FAA or Huerta’s response, and classified them as “open-unacceptable.” NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt, on his way to Texas to run the crash investigation, spoke to the Associated Press about the two-year-old recommendations, saying that, “I think the fact that it is open-unacceptable pretty much speaks for itself.”
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