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A hot air balloon crash in Texas that likely killed all on board Saturday may scare vacationers and festival-goers from taking part. But data shows the peaceful pastime remains a relatively safe aerial activity.
The mishap, about 30 miles south of Austin, would mark the deadliest balloon accident in the United States after at least 16 people were believed to have perished.
Before Saturday, the deadliest one occurred near Aspen, Colorado, in 1993 when six people were killed, according to The Associated Press.
Hot air ballooning records and guidelines are not updated as regularly as most types of aviation, but the most recent statistics show that between 1964 and 2014, the NTSB investigated 775 hot air balloon incidents in the U.S.
Over that period, 70 people were killed in such accidents. In comparison, sky diving accidents are about seven times more likely.
Collisions are blamed for about half of recent hot air balloon accidents, according to a 2013 study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
One such collision in 2014 left three people dead in eastern Virginia when a balloon struck a power line, shot up into the sky and then plummeted.
But the deadliest-ever hot air balloon incident worldwide was caused by a fire, which triggered an explosion in a balloon carrying 21 people over Luxor, Egypt, in 2013. Nineteen people were killed.
Other deadliest accidents include:
- Aug. 13, 1989: Thirteen people were killed when their hot air balloon collided with another over the Australian outback near the town of Alice Springs. The two balloons were flying at an altitude of 2,000 feet when one plunged to the ground after the collision.
- Jan. 07, 2012: A hot air balloon struck power lines near Carterton, New Zealand, and exploded, crashing to the ground. All 11 people on board were killed.
- Aug. 23, 2012: Six people died and 26 were injured when a hot air balloon carrying 32 people, mostly tourists including some children, caught fire and crashed near the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.
- Aug. 26, 2001: Six people including a child were killed when their hot air balloon touched a power line at Verrens-Arvey, in southwestern France.
Internationally, hot air ballooning regulations vary, but in the U.S., the balloons must be inspected annually or every 100 hours of flight time if operated commercially, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots are required to successfully complete a flight review every two years.
In 2014, the NTSB recommended that ballooning regulations become more stringent in order to "prevent accidents and save lives," but the Balloon Federation of America argued that the industry rules are adequate, and the FAA rejected the recommendations.
“We are regulated far more than similar sports — hang-gliding, parachutes, things of that nature,” said Balloon Federation of America representative Glen Moyer, according to NBC Bay Area.
But he warned that not all ballooning companies practice equal safety standards, and to check with the Better Business Bureau when looking to take to the skies in a hot air balloon.