Four people are dead and one is seriously injured after a hot air balloon crash in Eloy, Arizona, police said.
A group of skydivers jump from a hot air balloon floating in the Arizona desert, moments before it lands. On Sunday, four of its remaining passengers died and another person was critically injured, police said.
The disaster happened around 7:50 a.m. in Eloy, about 65 miles south of Phoenix, local police said. Press release. It went down in the desert east of Sunshine Boulevard and Hanna Road.
The plane was carrying 13 adults — a balloon operator, four passengers and eight skydivers, according to Eloy Mayor Micah Powell.
Shortly after all the skydivers had completed their planned jumps from the plane, “something catastrophic happened to the balloon and it crashed to the ground,” Eloy Police Chief Byron Gwaltney told a news conference.
While the exact cause of the crash is unknown, initial reports suggest the balloon suffered an “unspecified problem with its envelope,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident.
A witness on the ground told authorities in the seconds leading up to the crash that “the object of the hot air balloon was straight up and down, and the impact was pretty big,” Meyer said.
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The mayor said one person died at the scene and three others died after being taken to hospital. He said the seriously injured man was taken to a trauma center in Phoenix.
on Monday, Police have identified the four victims Syton Wyskolek, 28, of Union City, Michigan; Caitlin Bartrom, 28, Andrews, Indiana; Attahan Clicquot, 24, of Cupertino, California; and Cornelius van der Walt, 37, originally from South Africa and living in Eloy.
Van der Walt was the pilot, the Eloy Police Department said.
Valerie Stutterheim (23) from Scottsdale, Arizona, was seriously injured in the incident, police said.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident, and our thoughts are with Ms. Stutterheim as she receives medical treatment,” the police statement said.
Bartrom's mother, Jennifer Hubbard, described her daughter as a registered nurse from Indiana who loved skydiving and adventure, the CNN affiliate reported. KNXV.
Hubbard said her daughter traveled from Indiana to Arizona with friends and is “really enjoying the experience, having fun and seeing a new place she's never seen before.”
“It's kind of sad here at home. We keep crying about her and talking about her and trying to keep it real,” Hubbard told KNXV. “She's a beautiful person who recently became an RN and made it on her own.”
The nearby city has a “very large skydive community presence” and a large “drop zone,” or area where skydivers can land, Meyer says.
NTSB investigators were at the scene Sunday night documenting the crash site and examining the plane, which will be brought to a secure facility for further analysis in the coming days, an agency spokeswoman told CNN.
The plane was an A-160 passenger balloon manufactured by Cameron Balloons, the NTSB said. This model can accommodate a pilot and up to seven riders Manufacturer's website He says. CNN has reached out to Cameron Balloons for comment.
The Eloy Police Department said it is working with the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration on the investigation.
“As we continue our efforts, we ask for your thoughts and support for the families and loved ones of the victims during this difficult time,” police said.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
CNN's Elizabeth Wolf and Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.