By | January 16, 2024

Mother Grieves After Son Dies in Hot Air Balloon Crash in Eloy

A devastating hot air balloon crash in Eloy, Arizona has left a Michigan mother heartbroken after learning that her son was one of the four people killed in the incident. Rhonda Wiescholek, determined to bring her son home, rushed to Arizona upon hearing the news and vowed to stay until she can take him back with her.

The tragedy occurred early Sunday morning in Eloy, a city located south of the Valley in Pinal County. The hot air balloon, carrying a total of 13 people, encountered a fatal mishap after eight skydivers successfully jumped out of the balloon. Unfortunately, five individuals, including Rhonda’s son Chayton Wiescholek, remained in the basket when it crashed. The other victims have been identified as Kaitlynn Bartrom, Atahan Kiliccote, and pilot Cornelius van der Walt. Valerie Stutterheim, from Scottsdale, survived the crash but remains hospitalized.

Chayton, who resided in Union City, Michigan with his long-time girlfriend Kinsey and their cats, was on vacation in Arizona when the tragedy occurred. Kinsey, an avid skydiver, and Chayton were enjoying their time together when the accident took place. Rhonda, who had briefly left to check on their cats, received the devastating call from Kinsey about Chayton’s untimely demise.

Overwhelmed with grief, Rhonda expressed her anguish, saying, “There’s not a whole bunch more you can say. You’re just broken.” She explained that her son had joined the balloon ride to be with Kinsey and the other skydivers, but something went wrong, and the exact cause is still unknown.

Rhonda shared that a group of skydivers, including Kinsey, witnessed the balloon crash after safely landing themselves. However, Rhonda expressed frustration at not being allowed to see her son, pleading, “I need to see my son.”

Chayton, described as a nature enthusiast who loved riding in his Jeep and camping, was happiest when he was with Kinsey. Rhonda finds solace in knowing that her son was happy with her. Amidst her grief, she emphasized, “That’s all I’ve ever asked of my children is I want you happy and he was happy with her. So, I know he was happy.”

Katie Bartrom, a close friend of Kinsey’s, also lost her life in the tragedy. Both Katie and Kinsey bonded over their shared love of skydiving. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist in Chayton’s funeral expenses.


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