Hot Air Balloon Crashes in Texas, 16 People Confirmed Dead [VIDEO]
Several people who knew Nichols posted tributes to social media.
"Skip Nichols 24 years ago you took me on my first and only balloon ride,"Bianca Szal Storll wrote on Facebook. "Your passion for it was contagious as was your happy go lucky outlook on life. RIP my friend."
The identities of the passengers on board the hot air balloon have still not been identified. Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law said people could simply walk up and buy a ticket for the ride, making it more difficult to identify the victims.
Witness Margaret Wylie, who lives near the scene of the crash, told reporters, "First I heard a whoosh. And then a big ball of fire went up. I'd say it got as high up as those lower electrical lines.'
UPDATE (7/30/16 13:00): DPS officials have confirmed that 16 people have died when the hot air balloon they were in crashed in Lockhart, Texas Saturday morning, making it the worst hot air balloon accident in US history.
According to FAA officials, the hot air balloon struck a high-voltage power line in the area and caught fire before crashing into a pasture.
The National Transportation Safety Board is calling this a “major crash” that will be investigated by a team of experts from Washington.
The hour-long sunrise flight, operated by Heart Of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides out of New Braunfels, TX, was 26 minutes in when it crashed.
A hot air balloon with 16 people on board caught fire and crashed in a pasture about 30 miles south of Austin Saturday (7/30) morning.
According to NBC DFW, the accident happened in Lockhart, Texas just before 8:00 a.m. A 911 call came in about a fire and possible car accident, however, when first responders arrived, they found the reported fire to be the basket portion of the hot air balloon.
"...It does not appear at this time that there were any survivors of the crash," Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law said in a statement. "Investigators are determining the number and the identities of victims at this time."
The crash is being investigated by the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board.
The names of the victims have not yet been released.
According to the NTSB, before Saturday, the highest number of deaths in a single hot air balloon crash in the U.S. was six, in 1993 in Colorado.
Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement early Saturday afternoon about the tragedy saying,
“Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences for all those who have been affected by today’s heartbreaking tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, as well as the Lockhart community. The investigation into the cause of this tragic accident will continue, and I ask all of Texas to join us in praying for those lost.”
A reporter with FOX7 in Austin posted a Facebook Live video from the scene:
This is a developing story. We'll post updates as they come in.