The Eloy Police Department has released the identities of the victims involved in a tragic hot air balloon crash that occurred over the weekend in Arizona. According to Eloy Mayor Micah Powell, the balloon was carrying a total of 13 adults, including the pilot, four passengers, and eight skydivers. The balloon crashed into an empty field in a desert area located 65 miles southeast of Phoenix.
Fortunately, all of the skydivers were able to safely exit the balloon and complete their skydiving experience before the tragic event occurred. However, the balloon then crashed to the ground, resulting in the loss of three passengers and the pilot.
The impact of the crash took place in what is known as “the world’s largest drop zone” for skydivers, according to Mayor Powell. The pilot, Cornelius Van Der Walt, 37, was a resident of Eloy originally from South Africa. The three passengers who lost their lives have been identified as Chayton Wiescholek, 28, from Union City, Michigan; Kaitlynn Bartrom, 28, from Andrews, Indiana; and Atahan Kiliccote, 24, from Cupertino, California. Another passenger, Valerie Stutterheima, 23, from Scottsdale, Arizona, was critically injured.
The Eloy Police Department is currently collaborating with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to investigate this tragic incident. Eyewitnesses have reported that in the last moments before the crash, the hot air balloon was seen to be in a vertical position, which resulted in a significant impact.
The NTSB has dispatched investigators to the scene to document and examine the hot air balloon. The balloon will then be moved to a secure facility for further investigation. At this time, the cause of the crash remains unknown.
Our deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident. We also send our thoughts and well wishes to Ms. Stutterheima as she receives medical care. Updates on the investigation will be provided as more information becomes available.
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The crash occurred on Sunday, January 14, at approximately 8 a.m. The investigation is ongoing, and authorities are working diligently to determine the cause of this devastating incident..