Family members of hot air balloon crash victims create petition

Lockhart balloon victims (Family photos)
Lockhart balloon victims (Family photos)

LOCKHART, Texas (KXAN) — A petition has been created to push for more regulations surrounding the hot air balloon industry. It all comes after 16 people died last July in a hot air balloon crash in Caldwell County.

“My dog was outside when he started barking, like when someone drives down the road. That’s when I heard that first pop, his bark went from bark, bark to ‘I want in, now!’” said Margaret Wylie who lives near the crash site.

For Wylie, that was only the first clue that something terrible had happened just outside her door. “The flames were literally as high as those bottom lines, back over there on that tower,” she said.

Wylie had seen hot air balloons fly over her home dozens of times, and often she says they would get extremely close to the high line wires, but never did she expect one to actually hit.

“I’m sitting there thinking, ‘oh my gosh,’ I can’t believe anything like that could happen,” said Wylie.

All 16 people on board were killed. In December, the National Transportation Safety Board held a hearing about the crash. Family members of the victims listened, only to discover some concerning details.

“Sixteen families have been impacted by the lack of oversight of the tour of hot air balloon operations,” said Patricia Morgan who lost her daughter and granddaughter in the crash. “The pilot had a long history of multiple DUI’s, suspended license, and he had some drug convictions.”

Those are the reasons Morgan says she’s created the petition. “We do not want our girls to have died in vain and the other families as well,” said Morgan.

Investigators determined the pilot of this balloon had a long list of medications in his system at the time of the crash. According to NTSB hot air balloon pilots do not have to have a FAA medical certificate like airplane pilots. This petition calls for drug tests and medical exams

“I will sign it right now; I have no problem with that,” said Wylie. “He shouldn’t have been behind the wheel of a car, much less piloting a balloon. There needs to be rules for the hot air balloon companies to follow, plain and simple. You’re playing with people’s lives and it’s just not right.”

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