ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona balloon pilot autopsy revised to say ketamine administered by responders

Apr 5, 2024, 1:30 PM | Updated: 1:56 pm

Four people, including the pilot, died in a hot air balloon crash in Eloy, Arizona, on Jan. 14, 202...

Four people, including the pilot, died in a hot air balloon crash in Eloy, Arizona, on Jan. 14, 2024. (KTAR News Photo/Troy Barrett)

(KTAR News Photo/Troy Barrett)

PHOENIX — Days after releasing an autopsy report indicating the pilot in a fatal central Arizona hot air balloon crash had high levels of ketamine in his system, authorities issued a revision saying the drug was administered by responders after the crash.

Cornelius Van Der Walt, 37, died in the crash along with three passengers during a skydiving flight in the Eloy desert on Jan. 14. Eloy is about 65 miles southeast of downtown Phoenix.

The initial autopsy report from the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office, dated April 1, said Van Der Walt had considerably high amounts of ketamine in his system. Ketamine is an anesthetic that can have hallucinogenic effects, according to the Department of Justice.

What was changed in Arizona balloon pilot autopsy?

The toxicology section said the pilot hadn’t been prescribed ketamine and it wasn’t administered after the crash. The findings were widely reported by local and national media outlets.

However, a revision was issued on Friday based on information provided by the Eloy Police Department.

The updated toxicology section says that while fire department and hospital personnel didn’t use ketamine, the drug had indeed been administered by air evac services.

What happened on day of hot air balloon crash in Eloy?

Van Der Halt was the owner of a hot air balloon company called Droplyne. He took 12 other people up with him on the day of the crash, and eight successfully skydived off as planned.

The pilot was killed along with 28-year-old Chayton Wiescholek, 28-year-old Kaitlynn Bartom and 24-year-old Atahan Kiliccote.

One passenger survived the crash. Valerie Stutterheim, 23, was hospitalized in critical condition and has undergone eight surgeries, according to a GoFundMe set up post-crash.

CORRECTION: This is an updated version of a story originally published April 4. The previous version was based on the medical examiner’s original report.

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Arizona balloon pilot autopsy revised to say ketamine administered by responders