Namibian among four who die when hot air balloon crashes in Arizona


Four people are dead and another woman is still fighting for her life after a hot air balloon crashed near Eloy in Arizona in the USA on Sunday.

According to a statement from the Eloy police, the accident took place around 07:50. The hot air balloon crashed in a desert about eight kilometers from the city.

Cornelius van der Walt (37) – the pilot – originally from Walvis Bay in Namibia, as well as Chayton Wiescholek (28) from Union City in Michigan, Kaitlynn Bartrom (28) from Andrews in Indiana and Atahan Kiliccote (24) from Cupertino in California, died in the accident.

Valerie Stutterheim (23) from Scottsdale in Arizona survived the accident, but was hospitalized with serious injuries and is fighting for her life.

“We express our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident and our thoughts are with Stutterheim who is receiving medical care,” said the police statement.

A total of 13 people were on board the hot air balloon during the accident. It included eight parachutists, four passengers and the pilot.

“It is important to highlight that the eight people who jumped from the hot air balloon with a parachute planned to do so and that the jumps were successfully completed before problems arose with the hot air balloon,” say the police.

The hot air balloon belonged to Droplyne Hot Air Balloon Rides, a company that Van der Walt founded in 2017. The company offered hot air balloon rides in Eloy, Moab and Utah depending on the season.

Condolences are pouring in for the victims, including Van der Walt, who was described as an excellent pilot.

“You were a character, an adventurer and a friend who had mad skills in so many ways. I am so sorry that this one flight will probably be the one that the public will remember you for. Just know that so many others, including me, know that you were a good man and an excellent pilot,” Phil Brandt wrote in a post on Facebook.

The cause of the crash remains unknown and is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration in Arizona.