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Victims of Texas Balloon Crash Known for Spreading Joy Among Friends and Family

Texas Hot Air Balloon Struck Power Lines Before Crash: NTSB 1:40

A mom and her daughter on a Mother's Day gift adventure. A beloved preschool teacher, her husband and her best friend. An Army burn researcher and his newlywed wife. A pilot who ditched drugs and alcohol to turn his life around.

Portraits of some of the 16 people who were killed when the hot air balloon they were flying in plummeted into a Texas pasture continued to emerge Monday, two days after the crash.

Authorities say identifying all of the victims will be "a long process." Names of the pilot and eight of the passengers have been confirmed by NBC News.

No information has been released about one of the passengers, Scott Douglas, but friends and family of the others on board said they were distraught:

Skip Nichols

The pilot was identified as Alfred "Skip" Nichols, 49, a ballooning and motorcycle enthusiast who was chief pilot for Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides, the company said. The company, which has offices in Austin, Houston and San Antonio, said Monday that it had suspended operations.

Wendy Bartch of Ballwin, Mo., a close friend for almost 30 years, told NBC News that Nichols struggled with substance abuse for many years and had been convicted of driving while intoxicated and drug possession. But he'd turned his life around, entered recovery and became a member of a St. Louis church.

"Skip had changed his life," Bartch said. "He was 100 percent sober, and I know it to be a fact. He did everything to promote his sobriety. His life was different."

Related: Texas Balloon Pilot Had DWI Record, but Friend Says He Was Sober

Bartch described Nichols as "happy" and "joyful" in recent years.

"If I were to give you one word to describe Skip, it would be 'love,'" she said. "He found the positive in everything. He was a free spirit. He used to fly in the heavens, and now he lives in the heavens."

Tresa and Joe Owens and Holly Huckabee

Tresa Shafer Owens, 53, was a preschool teacher at Tiger Land Child Care Center for 24 years, the center said Monday. Her husband, Joe Owens, 43, a 12-year employee of the HEB grocery chain, was a constant volunteer presence at the day care center, it said.

IMAGE: Holly Huckabee, Joe Owens and Tresa Owens
From left: Holly Huckabee, Joe Owens and Tresa Owens. Ashley Burges

The Owenses were on the balloon ride along with Tresa Owens' best friend, Holly Smith Huckabee, 50, the mother of another teacher at the day care center. The trip was a birthday present from Huckabee and Joe Owens, a daughter, Ashley Burges, told NBC News. It had originally been scheduled for May, but bad weather forced a postponement until Saturday.

"They were the most wonderful and giving people," Burges said. "They would do anything for anyone. They're just always looking out for the better of everyone else. They just wanted everyone to be happy."

The Owenses had two other children and four grandchildren — three of whom attend Tiger Land — the school said.

"They lived for us and their grandkids. They never missed a thing," Burges said. "The only good thing that's come out of this is seeing how many people they touched."

Matt and Sunday Rowan

Friends and family said Matt and Sunday Rowan, both 34 and recently married, had settled in San Antonio, where Matt Rowan had just started a new job as chief of clinical trials in burns and trauma at the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research. Matt Rowan was stepfather to his new wife's 5-year-old son.

IMAGE: Sunday and Matt Rowan
Sunday and Matt Rowan. Joshua Rowan

Their balloon trip had also been postponed — several times — because of bad weather, Matt Rowan had told a friend, Derek Johnson, in a text message Friday night.

Matt Rowan "was doing some amazing work and research," said Joshua Rowan, Matt Rowan's older brother. "He felt like a lot of the stuff he was doing would have benefits for soldiers and other service members who had been injured by burns."

Related: Texas Hot Air Balloon Likely Hit Power Lines Before Crash: Feds

The couple were "incredible human beings," Joshua Rowan said. "They touched so many lives, and they're going to be incredibly missed. They made a difference in so many people's lives and were exactly the type of people you could ask for," he said.

Lorilee and Paige Brabson

Paige Brabson, who worked at Hacienda de los Barrios in San Antonio, gave birth to her first child 11 months ago, and the mother-daughter trip was a gift from Paige, said Drew Brabson, Lorilee's son and Paige's brother.

IMAGE: Lorilee and Paige Brabson
Lorilee Brabson, front, and Paige Brabson. Drew Brabson

The pair moved to San Antonio from Colorado, Lorilee Brabson's brother, Jason Pino, told NBC station KKTV of Colorado Springs. The balloon trip was one of Lorilee Brabson's "bucket list" items, Pino said.

"My niece Paige, her daughter, got her this gift for Mother's Day," Pino told the station.

"At 6:30 [a.m.], we all started seeing posts from my sister," Pino said. "She's big into posting things on Facebook, and she posted she was going on her bucket list balloon ride. ... She had been putting it off and putting it off due to weather, and finally they got a good weather day.

Pino said his sister was posting video and pictures more than an hour into the flight — "and then it just stopped."

"One of the last posts she posted ... they looked really happy," he said. "It said 'it's peaceful up here,' and I think she was at peace up there."

A GoFundMe page has been established for Paige Brabson's young daughter.

"Embrace your family, because you never know," Pino said. "I mean, my sister was here two weeks ago visiting us, and I thought I would see her again.

"Now I know I'm never going to see her again," he said.