4 dead in hot air balloon crash in Eloy

Jan 14, 2024, 2:26 PM | Updated: Jan 15, 2024, 1:26 pm

Crews work through a hot air balloon crash in Eloy that killed four. (Troy Barrett/KTAR News)...

Crews work through a hot air balloon crash in Eloy that killed four. (Troy Barrett/KTAR News)

(Troy Barrett/KTAR News)

PHOENIX — A hot air balloon ride turned tragic in Eloy shortly after dawn on Sunday.

Police in Eloy, Pinal County, said the balloon and its basket crashed in the desert, east of Sunshine Boulevard and Hanna Road around 7:50 a.m. Four individuals are reported dead and one is in critical condition as a result of the incident.

According to police, the balloon originally took off with 13 people, eight of whom were intentional skydivers who landed safely.

The four people who were pronounced dead were identified as 28-year-old Chayton Wiescholek from Union City, Michigan, 28-year-old Kaitlynn Bartom from Andrews, Indiana, 24-year-old Atahan Kiliccote from Cupertino, California and 37-year-old pilot Conelius Van Der Walt from Eloy.

Van Der Walt was the founder of Droplyne, the company that owned and operated the balloon.

According to the company website, Van Der Walt began the company in 2017.

The woman in critical condition was identified as 23-year-old Valerie Stutterheim of Scottsdale.

National Transportation Safety Board officials said, “The balloon impacted desert terrain following an unspecified problem with its envelope.”

The investigation is ongoing. 

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4 dead in hot air balloon crash in Eloy