Four people were killed and one critically injured Sunday morning when a hot-air balloon crashed in a desert area about 50 miles northwest of Tucson, Ariz., police said.
The crash happened around 7:50 a.m. in Eloy, Ariz. Eloy Police Department said on Facebook.
There were 13 adults in the balloon, including its operator, Mayor Micah Powell said in an interview Sunday night. Eight of those on board were sky divers.
It wasn't immediately clear what went wrong, but after the skydivers left the gondola, it appeared there was some kind of catastrophic failure, said Byron Gwaltney, the city's police chief.
A witness who saw the balloon descend for the last 10 seconds before it crashed described it as deflated, shapeless and coming straight down, the mayor said.
One passenger was pronounced dead at the scene and three others were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital, Mr. Powell said.
He said investigators are “looking at the physics of it all” to determine exactly what happened.
Chief Gwaltney said investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, among others, will examine cell phone footage shot during the ride.
NTSP said on social media The crash is under investigation but no further details have been released.
It is unclear how high the balloon reached before crashing.
Police said they are withholding the names of the victims pending notification of next of kin. The identity of the operator of the hot air balloon is not available.
Mr. Powell described the area as a popular spot for skydivers, “very well-known and well-loved” among enthusiasts. “We embrace it as a community,” he said.
There have been fatal accidents involving skydivers and airplanes from time to time, but he couldn't recall one involving many.
“It's a sad, sad situation,” the mayor said. “Hearts go out to those families who have lost loved ones.”