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Army Burn Expert Killed in Texas Balloon Crash

Investigators surround the scene in a field near Lockhart, Texas where a hot air balloon carrying at least 16 people collided with power lines Saturday, July 30, 2016. (Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Investigators surround the scene in a field near Lockhart, Texas where a hot air balloon carrying at least 16 people collided with power lines Saturday, July 30, 2016. (Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

A U.S. Army civilian, who specialized in burns and trauma research, was among the 16 killed in a recent hot-air balloon accident in Central Texas.

Matt Rowan and his wife, Sunday Rowan, were among those on board, his brother Josh Rowan told the Associated Press.

Rowan had just taken on a permanent position as chief of clinical trials for burns and trauma in July at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Steven Galvan, an institute spokesman, told Military.com.

The recently married couple from San Antonio, both 34, had texted family and posted on social media pictures of the balloon being set up, the rising sun and them in the basket.

"It's a bit haunting now," Josh Rowan told the AP on July 31.

The hot air balloon hit high-tension power lines before crashing into a pasture in Central Texas, killing all 16 on board, according to federal authorities investigating the worst such disaster in U.S. history.

A power line was tripped at 7:42 a.m. July 30, and the first call to 911 came a minute later, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said during a news conference. The crash site was near a row of high-tension power lines, and aerial photos showed an area of scorched land underneath.

The NTSB said the balloon was run by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides.

The passengers met the balloon operator in the San Marcos Wal-Mart parking lot at about 5:45 a.m. Saturday, and traveled to Fentress Texas Airpark. Ground crew members told the NTSB that they launched about 20 minutes after the expected 6:45 a.m. time. The balloon traveled about eight miles from takeoff to crash, and the basket was found about three-quarters of a mile from the balloon material itself.

Identification of the victims will be "a long process," Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law quoted the NTSB and medical professionals as saying, according to the AP.

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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Army Aviation Accidents