A driver in Pflugerville, Texas, was startled to see a hot air balloon rapidly descending over FM 685, so he started video recording it. The video shows the balloon crashing into a field across from an HEB grocery store parking lot, narrowly missing a row of power lines by about 100 feet.
“Needless to say we were shocked to look up and see it coming,” viewers Dawn and Michael Hale told KXAN News, Austin.
The hot air balloon’s basket, which appeared to have three occupants, tipped over when it struck the ground. For a moment appeared that it would lift into the air again. Instead, the basket settled and the balloon started to deflate in the field. No one was injured in the incident.
KXAN reported that the balloon experienced turbulence in the air, prompting the pilot to land.
The incident occurred about 40 miles north of Lockhart, Texas, where 16 people were killed July 30 when the hot air balloon they were in collided with high-voltage electrical lines. The Lockhart crash was the deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history and the worst U.S. aviation crash involving any type of aircraft in seven years.
The Lockhart balloon crash has called attention to what many critics say is a lack of safety regulations and oversight within the industry. The pilot of the hot air balloon in the Lockhart crash had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as a number of criminal convictions and traffic violations that made him unfit to drive a car, yet he was licensed to fly people on hot air balloon tours.
Hot air balloon insurance policies also have very limited liability caps. Ninety-five percent of hot air balloon operators nationally have policies that limit to damages to $100,000 per person for bodily injury, with a typical cap of $1 million per episode.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has investigated 775 hot air balloon crashes resulting in 70 fatalities in the U.S. since 1964, for an average of about 15 crashes per year. According to NTSB data, just as many people died in the single Lockhart balloon crash than all the hot air balloon fatalities in the 10-year period from 2002-2012.