Hot Air Balloon crash in Arizona: Victims Identified
In a devastating turn of events, a hot air balloon crash in Arizona over the weekend has claimed the lives of four people. The identities of the victims have now been released by the Eloy Police Department.
The balloon was carrying a total of 13 adults, including the pilot, four passengers, and eight skydivers. The incident occurred in a desert area located 65 miles southeast of Phoenix, where the balloon crashed into an empty field.
According to Eloy Mayor Micah Powell, the skydivers were able to safely exit the balloon and complete their skydiving experience, but tragedy struck when the balloon suddenly crashed to the ground. Three passengers and the pilot were among those who tragically lost their lives in the crash.
The impact of the crash took place in what is known as the “world’s largest drop zone” for skydivers. The pilot of the hot air balloon has been identified as Cornelius Van Der Walt, a 37-year-old resident of Eloy originally from South Africa. The three passengers who lost their lives were identified as Chayton Wiescholek, 28, from Union City, Michigan; Kaitlynn Bartrom, 28, from Andrews, Indiana; and Atahan Kiliccote, 24, from Cupertino, California. Another individual, Valerie Stutterheima, 23, from Scottsdale, Arizona, was critically injured in the crash.
The Eloy Police Department is currently collaborating with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the investigation of this tragic incident. Eyewitnesses reported that the material of the hot air balloon was seen going straight up and down in the moments leading up to the impact.
Our deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this heartbreaking incident. Our thoughts are also with Ms. Stutterheima as she receives medical care.
The cause of the crash is not yet known, and investigators from the NTSB have arrived at the scene to document and examine the hot air balloon. The balloon will later be moved to a secure facility for further investigation.
This tragic hot air balloon crash serves as a reminder of the inherent risks associated with such activities. As authorities continue to investigate, it is crucial that safety measures are thoroughly reviewed to prevent similar incidents in the future.