Four Killed, One Hurt In Hot Air Balloon Crash

( – A hot air balloon crashed in Arizona on Sunday, January 14th, leading to the deaths of four people.

The balloon crashed just before 8 AM in a desert area near Eloy, which 65 miles away from Phoenix. The balloon took off early morning Sunday with a total of 13 people onboard. Eight of the people on board were skydivers who jumped at the Eloy Municipal Airport, a popular skydiving location. They jumped off before the balloon crashed and landed safely. According to reports, something “catastrophic” happened shortly after the skydivers exited the aircraft, leading to the crash. There were five people onboard before the balloon crashed, four of whom died upon impact and one of whom is listed as “critically injured.”

Authorities in Eloy are working alongside the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board to figure out the cause of the crash. The type of balloon is a Kubicek BB 85 Z, though it was misidentified in initial reports as a Cameron Balloons A160. The victims were named on Monday after authorities spoke to their families. The victims have been identified as 28-year-old Kaitlynn Bartrom of Andrews, Indiana; 24-year-old Atahan Kiliccote of Cupertino, California; 28-year-old Chayton Wiescholek from Union City, Michigan; and 37-year-old Cornelius Van Der Walt, a resident of Eloy who was born in South Africa. The person who survived the crash but is critically injured is Valerie Stutterheim, a 23-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona.

On Monday, the NTSB said that they were unable to find any “mechanical anomalies” with the envelope and said everything seems to be intact. They said they will continue to investigate to discover what caused the crash.

The mayor of Eloy, Micah Powell, said one witness reported that the balloon appeared to be deflated before it crashed. Byron Gwaltney, the chief of police in Eloy, said he hopes that cellphone footage taken during the flight will help illuminate what went wrong and caused the crash.

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