Sunday marks one year since deadly Lockhart hot air balloon crash

It's been one year since the deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history. Friends and neighbors in Lockhart still vividly remember what happened that day.

CALDWELL COUNTY, TEXAS - Sunday marks one year since a hot air balloon struck power lines, crashed and caught fire just outside Lockhart, killing 16 people.

The crash sparked a year-long investigation that is still underway today.

On July 30, 2016, neighbors near the 700 block of Jolly Road reported hearing what sounded like an explosion at 7:40 a.m. Every passenger -- including pilot Alfred "Skip" Nichols -- died. It was the deadliest hot air balloon crash in United States history. 

"Where the memorial is, just about 15 feet away is where the balloon went down," said neighbor Margaret Wylie on Sunday.

Wylie lived just feet away from the crash and was the first to call 911 in response.

"I heard a pop," she said. "Like a shotgun going off."

She said her dog Brownie was outside and started yelping in fear. When she walked outside, she saw a sight she can't forget.

"Flames. Tall flames," she said. "Almost to the lower power lines."

Wylie said she initially worried it was a tractor fire, but knew it was worse when she saw the hot air balloon chase car arrive.

"You knew automatically, when you saw the chase car, that there was more than one person and it's just kind of a 'How in the world?'"

RELATED:

Deadly hot air balloon crash in Lockhart: What we know so far

NTSB: Lockhart hot air balloon pilot in deadly crash knew weather was dangerous

Eileen Lang was at the memorial Sunday, remembering her friends Joe and Tresa Owens and Holly Huckabee.

"All three always had a smile on their faces," she said. "I feel them daily, I'm just here to say, 'I'm still thinking of you.'"

Among the passengers were a mother and grandmother celebrating a birthday, a couple marking an anniversary together and newlyweds.

KVUE spoke to the bride's daughter after the crash.

"They were really excited -- they were very excited to be able to watch the sunrise," said Ciera Taylor, daughter of victim Sandra Chalk. "And they had never been on a hot air balloon, so she was just really excited."

Taylor got a text from her mom just before takeoff that morning. It was the last time she ever heard from her.

Medical experts testified at a December hearing in Washington, D.C. that pilot Nichols was taking medications that should have kept him from flying, and that he took the 15 passengers up in the balloon despite knowing that the weather conditions were dangerous. The final hearing on the crash is set for October.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment