LOCKHART (United States) – The hot air balloon struck the power lines before it crashed in a pasture near Lockhart in central part of the US state of Texas, US federal investigators confirmed on Sunday.
There was evidence that part of the balloon hit the electrical lines before the deadly crash that killed all the 16 people on board, China’s Xinhua news agency reported, citing investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
It is still unclear whether the fire broke out before or after the balloon struck the power lines.
“There is evidence that some component of the balloon hit the wires — not the tower,” Robert Sumwalt from the NTSB said at a briefing.
He added that the massive red-white-and-blue balloon with a smiling-face image travelled nearly 13 km after taking off at around 7 a.m.(1200 GMT). A high-tension power line was hit at 7:42 a.m. (1242 GMT) Saturday, followed by a call to 911 a minute later.
Sumwalt expressed the hope that investigators will be able to gather some information from the cell phones found among the wreckage. The response team said that the devices have been completely destroyed, but Sumwalt remained hopeful that the NTSB specialist team will be able to find some information.
The hot air balloon, a Kubicek-type manufactured in the Czech Republic, was operated by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloons.
As of Sunday night, the investigators have not identified any victim, and dental records reportedly would have to be used to identify the victims.
Li Qiangmin, Chinese Consul General in Houston, told Xinhua on Sunday night that the Chinese Consulate General has been closely following the development of the accident and no Chinese citizens have been so far confirmed among the victims.
According to Xinhua the accident is the deadliest of its kind in the US history. – BERNAMA