By Chris Nesi

Four people were killed and one critically injured Sunday in a hot air balloon crash in Arizona, police said.

The tragic incident happened at approximately 7:50 a.m. in a desert area in Eloy, a small town with a population just over 15,000, and some 65 miles northwest of Phoenix known as “the skydiving capital of the world.”

The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration were leading the investigation.

One of the victims was identified by their family as 28-year-old Katie Bartrom.

Her mother told ABC 15 that Bartrom was a registered nurse from Indiana who enjoyed skydiving and adventure.

The identities of the other victims were being withheld pending notification of their next of kin.

It was not immediately clear if or how the victims knew each other.

Eloy Mayor Micah Powell said that 13 people had been aboard the balloon.

Eight skydivers, who jumped before the crash, four passengers and a pilot, were initially together.

The mayor told the New York Times that a witness saw the final moments leading up to the balloon’s crash and said it was deflated and coming straight down.

The chief of the Eloy Police Department, Byron Gwaltney, said some type of catastrophic failure happened, according to the NY Times.

“The Eloy Police Department regretfully confirms that there are four deceased individuals and one person in critical condition as a result of this incident,” the department said in a statement.

“Further information will be provided as it becomes available. We thank the community for their support and understanding as we navigate this tragic event.”

Eloy is home to two parachute manufacturers: Firebird USA and Sun Path Products, as well as the world’s largest skydive drop zone, Skydive Arizona, which is located around five miles from the site of the balloon crash.

An employee answering the phone declined to comment late Sunday afternoon.

https://nypost.com/2024/01/14/news/4-killed-1-critically-injured-in-az-hot-air-balloon-crash/