4 Dead, 1 in Critical Condition After Freak Accident in Hot Air Balloon The hot air balloon crashed early in the morning on Thursday while flying over the Arizona desert.

By Emily Rella

Four people have died and one is in critical condition after a hot air balloon crashed in the Arizona desert.

There were 13 people on board, including eight skydivers, four passengers, and one pilot, when the hot air balloon crashed just before 8 a.m. local time in Eloy, Arizona on Monday. The pilot was confirmed to be one of the fatalities on board.

The balloon was operated by Droplyne Hot Air Balloon Rides. Police noted that the skydivers all successfully jumped from the balloon before the crash.

According to Droplyne's website, the company has a "perfect safety record."

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The cause of the crash is still unknown, but it is being investigated by the Eloy Police Department, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Federal Aviation Agency.

Police identified the five victims, who range in age from 23 years old to 37 years old — Chayton Wiescholek, 28, from Union City, Michigan; Kaitlynn Bartrom, 28, from Andrews, Indiana; Atahan Kiliccote, 24, from Cupertino, California; and pilot Cornelius van der Walt, 37, from South Africa and residing in Eloy.

"While we continue our efforts, we ask for your thoughts and support for the families and loved ones affected during this difficult time," the Eloy PD said, calling the incident "devastating" for the community.

Jennifer Hubart, the mother of Kaitlynn Bartrom told local outlet ABC 15 that her daughter was visiting Arizona from Indiana with her friends.

"It's kind of somber here at home. We're crying about her on and off and talking about her on and off still trying to make it real," Hubartt told the outlet. "She was a beautiful person, she recently became an RN and was making it on her own."

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The NTSB said that there was an "unspecified problem" with the balloon's envelope, noting that there were "no mechanical anomalies" found so far.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior News Writer

Emily Rella is a Senior News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

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4 Dead, 1 in Critical Condition After Freak Accident in Hot Air Balloon

The hot air balloon crashed early in the morning on Thursday while flying over the Arizona desert.


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