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16 dead in hot air balloon crash

July 31, 2016 6:00 pm

*A hot air balloon has caught fire and crashed in the US state of Texas, with all 16 on board confirmed dead, the Texas department of safety says.

The balloon came down in fields near Lockhart, about 30 miles (50km) south of the state capital Austin.

Caldwell County sheriff Daniel Law said the basket of the balloon was on fire when emergency crews arrived.

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Videos posted by local media suggest the balloon came down near tall power lines, but the cause is not yet known.

The balloon crashed at about 07:40 (12:40 GMT), officials said.

“It does not appear at this time that there were any survivors of the crash,” the sheriff’s office said.

It is the deadliest hot air balloon crash in the US.

Local resident Margaret Wylie said she was outside her home when she heard two “pops” which she thought was a gun going off.

“The next thing I knew you saw a big fireball go up. I was just praying that whoever was there got away from the thing in time,” she said.

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation. Erik Grosof, an NTSB official at the scene, said only that there had been “a number of fatalities”.

He said the balloon was believed to have belonged to the Heart of Texas Balloon Rides, an Austin-based company that offers trips to see the sunrise with champagne.

A Fox News reporter from Lockhart who is at the scene says contact was lost with the balloon about half an hour into a scheduled one-hour flight.

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