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16 dead after hot air balloon crashes in Texas

There were no survivors after a hot air balloon, believed to be carrying at least 16 people, caught fire and crashed in central Texas, the state's Department of Public Safety confirms.

Balloon went down in pasture near Lockhart, about 50 kilometres south of Austin

The partial frame of a hot air balloon is visible above a crop field as investigators comb the wreckage of a crash Saturday morning in a pasture near Lockhart, about 50 kilometres south of Austin, Texas. (Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman/Associated Press)

There were no survivors after a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in central Texas, the state's Department of Public Safety has confirmed.

At least 16 people were on board the balloon, which Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said caught fire before crashing into a pasture near Lockhart, about 50 kilometres south of Austin, shortly after 7:40 a.m. local time Saturday.

Margaret Wylie who lives about a half a kilometre from the crash site told The Associated Press that she was letting her dog out Saturday morning when she heard a "pop, pop, pop."

"I looked around and it was like a fireball going up," she said, noting that the fireball was located under large power lines and almost high enough to reach the bottom of them.

Wylie, who called 911, said the weather seemed clear and that she frequently sees hot air balloons in the area.

The Caldwell County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that investigators are determining the number of victims and their identities.

The FAA is also investigating, Lunsford said. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss said that his agency's investigative team should arrive later Saturday.

Weiss said the safety agency knows "very, very little right now" about what happened.

The deadly crash occurred in a pasture near Lockhart, Texas, about 50 kilometres south of Austin. (CBC)

Erik Grosof, an official with the National Transportation Safety Board, would only confirm there were "a number of fatalities," and said the incident was being treated as a "major accident," said at a news conference.

"It's much like a crime scene. You only get one chance at it, so we want to make sure we do everything correctly."

The land near the crash site is mostly farmland, with corn crops and grazing cattle. Cutting through that farmland is a row of massive high-capacity transmission lines about four to five storeys tall. The site of the crash appears to be right below the overhead lines, though authorities haven't provided further details about what happened

Emergency responders in Texas said the fire hit the basket portion of the hot air balloon.

In a statement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked that "all of Texas to join us in praying for those lost."

With files from Reuters and CBC News

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