Photo Credit: FOX10 Phoenix KSAZ

Hot Air Balloon Pilot Involved In Fatal Arizona Crash Reportedly Had Ketamine In Their System

According to reports, the hot air balloon pilot who crashed in the Arizona desert, which caused the death of four individuals had heightened levels of ketamine in his system.

In a medical examiner’s report Cornelius van der Walt, 37, had a level of ketamine in his system that would be considered impaired for driving. The report noted that he did not have a valid prescription for the drug and that the emergency responders who attempted to resuscitate him did not administer it.

On January 14, Van der Walt, a resident of Eloy who was from South Africa, was operating the balloon with 13 adults on board. According to reports, eight skydivers had already exited the balloon before any problems occurred. Van der Walt and four other individuals were still in the balloon basket when the incident happened.

On January 25, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report stating that a balloon experienced an “unspecified problem” and subsequently crashed into an unoccupied field located 65 miles southeast of Phoenix in a desert region.

According to the incident report, after reviewing several videos recorded on mobile phones, it was observed that the balloon was descending while its envelope was deflated and trailing above. The report also mentioned that the flame from the burner under the envelope was occasionally visible.

Researchers also discovered evidence of heat-related harm in the vicinity of the envelope’s opening. In addition, they observed that the sewn rim tape material at the uppermost part of the envelope was worn out, and there were multiple damaged panels.

Van der Walt, along with three other passengers, Chayton Wiescholek, Kaitlynn Bartrom, and Atahan Kiliccote, all lost their lives in the tragic accident. Chayton Wiescholek, 28, hailed from Union City, Michigan, while Kaitlynn Bartrom, 28, was from Andrews, Indiana, and Atahan Kiliccote, 24, was a resident of Cupertino, California.

Valerie Stutterheima, a 23-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, has been identified by the authorities as the fourth passenger who sustained critical injuries and survived the accident.

According to the NTSB, it may take more than a year for the investigation to conclude and release its final findings on the accident.