LOCKHART, Texas (AP) — As Matt Rowan and his wife, Sunday Rowan, prepared to take a hot air balloon ride they texted family and posted on social media pictures of the balloon set up, the rising sun, them in the basket.
Matt Rowan’s brother, Josh Rowan, told The Associated Press on Sunday: “It’s a bit haunting now but I guess it was a bit of a play-by-play.”
He says that as word began to trickle out that a hot air balloon crashed Saturday morning their families hoped that it wasn’t theirs, but it soon became clear it was.
Josh Rowan said the two, both 34, grew up in College Station. They had been friends since high school and just got married in February.
He says, “They were really happy and they were in love and they were really starting a life together.”
He said that Sunday Rowan, who had a young son who wasn’t with them that morning, worked at a clothing store and Matt Rowan was a researcher and scientist at Brooke Army Medical Center. His research centered on treating burn victims.
Brent Jones, the father of Sunday Rowan’s 5-year-old son, tells Dallas television station KDFW that Matt Rowan was an amazing man and Sunday Rowan was “obsessed with her son’s happiness.”
Judy LeUnes, Matt Rowan’s 5th grade teacher and a family friend, told the Bryan-College Station Eagle: “He was fun to teach. He was excited every day.”
Federal officials say there is evidence that some part of the hot air balloon hit electrical wires before crashing, killing 16 on board.
Robert Sumwalt with the National Transportation Safety Board said at a news conference that the sheriff said it was foggy after Saturday morning’s accident, but that it wasn’t clear what the weather was like during the flight itself.
It traveled about 8 miles from takeoff to crash. The basket was found about three-quarters of a mile from the balloon material itself.
The balloon fell in a pasture Saturday morning near Lockhart, about 30 miles south of Austin. The crash site was near a row of high-tension power lines, and aerial photos showed an area of scorched land underneath. One witness described seeing a “fireball” near the power lines.
Sumwalt said the power line was tripped was at 7:42 a.m., and the first call to 911 came a minute later.
It is the deadliest such accident in U.S. history.