Locals victims in deadly balloon crash

By Moses Leos III

A Wimberley couple has been identified as two of the 16 people who were killed in what’s been deemed as the worst hot air balloon accident in U.S. history.

According to multiple reports, family and friends have confirmed Ross Chalk, 60, and Sandra Chalk, 55, as two victims in the hot air balloon crash near Lockhart on July 30.

The accident occurred when a Balony Kubcek BB852 model hot air balloon crashed into a field near Jolley Road after striking high voltage power lines, according to a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report.

All 16 passengers, including pilot Alfred “Skip” Nichols, of Kyle, were killed, with the balloon “substantially damaged” due to impact forces and post-crash fire, the report said.

All victims were found near the gondola, with the balloon found 3/4ths of a mile away, according to NTSB officials.

NTSB officials said August 1 the company which owned the balloon, Heart of Texas Balloon Rides, was scheduled to take off at 6:49 a.m. July 30, but experienced a 20-minute delay.

According to a report from the San Antonio Express News, a source close to the investigation said Nichols may not have seen the power lines ahead and may have been attempting to descend through a break in the clouds.

To date, 15 of the 16 victims have been officially identified, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.

Heart of Texas Balloon Rides, according to multiple reports, had a balloon experience a hard landing in an open field near a Kyle church in 2014. Two people were injured in the accident. It is unknown who was piloting that balloon during that incident.

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