SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KXAN) — Next week the National Transportation Safety Board will hold its final hearing about last year’s deadly hot air balloon crash. The NTSB will determine the probable cause of the crash and will look at making safety recommendations for the industry.
The hot air balloon crashed in a field just outside of Lockhart, killing all 16 people on board — the worst crash of its kind in U.S. history. Patricia Morgan lost both her daughter and granddaughter in the crash that day.
“She loved family; she was a woman of Christ,” said Morgan remembering her daughter.
After the crash Morgan parked her RV and moved her life to San Antonio to help raise her grandchildren and her great-granddaughter.
“I’m here the majority of the time,” she said. “To me it’s not a burden, we’re family and you have to do what you have to do for family. This is what I am doing.”
Morgan says it hasn’t always been easy and has been leaning on faith to get her through. “Everything was such a turmoil. I know now that I’m not alone and God has been really good and gracious and he gave me the girls for so many years and I am thankful that I had them for the years that I had them.”
Morgan reminds her great-granddaughter every day of her mother and grandmother, but is hoping to create more than a memory and is pushing for some permanent changes.
“It can’t continue the way it is, we don’t want other families to have to endure the pain and the heartache and the heartbreak that we have all had to,” said Morgan.
She is in talks with state representatives and even launched a White House petition earlier this year calling for more federal oversight. Her goal is to require balloon pilots to have the same drug tests and health certifications as other tour pilots.
“It doesn’t matter if it was one or 16, they need to change the laws,” she said. “We are hoping that the NTSB will make recommendations to the FAA that will change the laws pertaining to hot air balloon pilots.”
Morgan will be heading to Washington, D.C. this weekend. Along with attending the hearing on Tuesday, she plans on meeting with other state representatives to express her concerns.
The National Transportation Safety Board says since 2000, 37 people lost their lives in hot air balloon crashes. Sixteen of those were in Lockhart. In that time frame, the NTSB investigated more than 200 balloon crashes. The top causes for crashes are excessive speed while landing, the balloon collapsing mid-flight and coming into contact with power lines.
In 2012, the NTSB asked the FAA to place the same level of oversight on hot air balloons as airplane and helicopter companies. Then again in 2014, the NTSB warned the FAA there was a “high potential for a high-fatality crash.” But the FAA rejected the recommendation in 2015, saying it would not make things significantly safer.