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Investigation Underway Into Balloon Crash That Killed 16

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Credit Louisa Jonas
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John Cook, an area resident who visited the crash site to pay his respects.

The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, has  confirmed that the balloon which crashed Saturday morning near Lockhart, killing 16 people, hit power lines on its way down.

In a sunbaked pasture about 60 miles northeast of San Antonio, NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said investigators don’t yet know if contact with the power lines caused the balloon to catch fire, or if the balloon was already on fire when it hit the lines.

Sumwalt says the investigation strategy will focus on three things: "We look at the human, the machine, and the environment. Really what that means is, as far as the human, we’re going to be looking at the operator. We want to know about the company itself. We want to know about the pilot. What was the maintenance like of that balloon? We’ll be interviewing witnesses and looking at witness video. We’ve brought in a fire specialist."

Sumwalt says investigators will examine cell phones, cameras and an Ipad found near the crash site. All 16 bodies have been recovered in the area around the gondola, but authorities aren’t confirming their identities. Sumwalt says the passengers were flying in a Kupicek balloon manufactured in the Czech Republic, and there have been several other accidents involving Kupicek balloons.

John Cook was among the area residents unnerved by the crash who drove to the scene.

"I just had to come out here and look around and just see what I could see, and maybe settle my nerves a little bit. I just feel so sorry about the people that were in it and their families because, you know, I just don’t understand it," Cook says.

Sumwalt is urging anyone who witnessed the crash or has related video to contact the NTSB.