Does Texas even have a hot air balloon policy? Is this fully national?
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Sixteen people died in a hot air balloon crash outside Lockhart on Saturday that left no survivors, raising questions about the safety of hot air balloons and how they are regulated.
The Austin American-Statesman reportsthat the balloon “had been gliding along a portion of Caldwell County near Jolly Road, about two miles west of Lockhart, when witnesses said it appeared to strike high-voltage power lines and catch fire.” The Statesman called the crash “one of the most deadly single incidents to hit the Austin area” and “the worst such accident since a 2013 balloon crash in Egypt killed 19.”
The tragedy drew a reaction from Gov. Greg Abbott, who said in a statement that “the investigation into the cause of this tragic accident will continue, and I ask all of Texas to join us in praying for those lost,” as well as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and other Texas officials. Pope Francis also offered his condolences.
As the Statesman reports, the National Transportation Safety Board called for federal officials to more strictly regulate hot air balloons more than two years ago, given what it described as the potential for a “high number of fatalities in a single air tour balloon accident.” Just months ago, the Federal Aviation Administration rejected those recommendations.
“It’s unclear whether the safety recommendations could have prevented Saturday’s catastrophic balloon crash near Lockhart,” the Statesman writes. “But it seems likely that the foretold crash will renew calls for enhanced safety regulation of an industry that has experienced a number of deadly accidents in recent years.”