Dr. Matt and Sunday Rowan were among the victims of the deadliest hot air balloon accident in the nation’s history. Sixteen people were killed when the balloon drifted into high-voltage electrical lines and crashed into a corn field in central Texas on Saturday morning.
Matt and Sunday hadn’t even been married a year when the crash happened. They were both 34 years old. Just 12 minutes before the accident, the couple was still sending out pictures of the breathtaking views from their ride.
“Even down to the last minute there were pictures of them smiling and laughing,” his brother told NBC News.
Matt had reportedly just begun a job as an army hospital burns trial unit chief.
“He was doing some amazing work and research,” Joshua Rowan told NBC. “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,” he said.
NTSB officials who are investigating the crash say the hot air balloon was flying too low. The balloon lifted off from an air park in San Antonio just after 7AM. Eight miles from where they took off, the balloon still hadn’t gained the 170 feet it had to climb to clear those power lines. Investigators will be interviewing ground crews to see what they may know.
Friends and loved ones who knew the pilot and owner of Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides said he was always a happy and friendly guy. When it came to his hot air balloon business, they told KVUE, safety was a “top priority” for him.
Two years ago, the NTSB recommended stronger regulations for commercial hot air balloon companies but those recommendations were turned down by the FAA.
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