Matt and Sunday Rowan were two of 16 victims who died when a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in Maxwell, Texas, on July 30.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Sunday, July 31, 2016, 6:41 PM
An army hospital burns trial chief and his wife were among the 16 who died in the hot air balloon crash in Central Texas.
Matt Rowan, and his wife, Sunday Rowan, both 34, were killed when the balloon caught on fire and crashed in a field Saturday, family said.
Matt had just begun a job as an army hospital burns trial unit chief, his brother, Joshua Rowan, told NBC News.
The young couple had not even been married a year at the time of the crash.
“He was doing some amazing work and research,” he said. “He felt like a lot of the stuff he was doing would have benefits for soldier and other service members who had been injured by burns.”
The duo “was so happy together,” he added. “They were trying to grow their family. It makes the timing of it even more horrific.”
The balloon accident was the worst in American history.
The hot air balloon that crashed, killing all 16 people on board, hit high-tension power lines before plummeting into a Central Texas field, federal authorities said Sunday.
A power line was tripped at 7:42 a.m. Saturday, and the first call to 911 came a minute later, Robert Sumwalt with the National Transportation Safety Board said during a Sunday news conference.
The crash location was close to a row of high-tension power lines, and aerial photos showed an area of scorched land beneath them.
Foggy weather during the flight may have also contributed to the crash, the country’s deadliest ever balloon accident.
It comes two years after the National Transportation Safety Board pressed the Federal Aviation Administration to boost its rules on hot air balloon operators.
16 people died when the hot air balloon went down.
The FAA ignored those suggested changes, arguing the industry was safe and did not require regulations.
On Sunday, NTSB investigators began to scrutinize the company that operated the balloon, Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides. Investigators are also looking into the pilot, Skip Nichols, 49, who was identified by friend and colleague Alan Lirette.
“That’s the only thing I want to talk about, is that he’s a great pilot,” Lirette said of Nichols, who also owns Missouri-based Air Balloon Sports LLC. “There’s going to be all kinds of reports out in the press and I want a positive image there too,” he told the Associated Press.
NTSB investigators will look at “three things — human, machine and environment” at the site, which is about 30 miles south of Austin, board member Robert Sumwalt said Sunday in Washington, D.C.
The balloon crashed over Texas farmland.
(RODOLFO GONZALEZ / Austin Americ/REUTERS)
They’ll review the balloon’s maintenance history and weather at the time of the crash, which is one of the worst ever in the world. In February 2013, 19 people died and two people were injured when a balloon caught fire over Luxor, Egypt, and plunged 1,000 feet to the ground.
The NTSB is interested in any cellphone video of the balloon’s flight, and investigators will look for devices in the wreckage that have recoverable video shot by passengers, as well as any video from witnesses.
“When balloons go out on these flights, they have a chase couple of cars to go pick up the riders after they’ve landed in a field somewhere. We think there may be some chase footage from those cars,” Sumwalt said.
The crash happened in farmland that has a row of massive high-capacity electrical transmission lines cutting through it. The site of the crash appears to be right below the overhead lines and aerial photos showed an area of charred pasture underneath, but authorities haven’t provided further details about what happened.