Family and friends are coming together to honor the memory of the four individuals who tragically lost their lives in a hot air balloon accident in Arizona over the weekend.
Jennifer Hubartt, the mother of 28-year-old Katie Bartrom, expressed her heartfelt sentiments in a post, stating, “My daughter, your life was a blessing and your memory a treasure.” This emotional tribute comes after the tragic incident where Katie lost her life in a hot air balloon crash on Sunday morning.
The message continued, expressing, “You are cherished in a way that cannot be adequately put into words and your absence is deeply felt.”
The crash site was captured in images released by KNXV, revealing a flattened, colorful balloon in a remote rural area located approximately 50 miles northwest of Tucson.
When The Messenger reached out to Hubartt on Tuesday, there was no immediate response.
Eloy mayor Micah Powell revealed during a press conference that a total of 13 individuals had participated in the balloon ride earlier that morning. Among the passengers, eight were skydivers who had safely disembarked from the balloon prior to the crash.
Atahan Kiliccote, aged 24, Chayton Wiescholek, aged 28, and Cornelius van der Walt, aged 37, also lost their lives in the tragic incident, as confirmed by the Eloy Police Department.
Valerie Stutterheim, a 23-year-old survivor, is currently receiving critical medical treatment in the hospital, according to officials.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are currently conducting an investigation into the crash, as reported by KNXV.
“Heaven has welcomed another exquisite angel,” expressed Stefanie Bitz, a close friend of Bartrom, in a heartfelt social media post on Monday.
Bartrom was a bridesmaid at Bitz’s wedding, and they shared many memorable moments together, filled with both laughter and tears.
She expressed her gratitude for being my friend and acknowledged that she would miss me.
Stacey Lyn Bischoff, a close friend of Bartrom, expressed her deep sorrow, referring to him as a “beautiful soul that is gone way too soon.” Similarly, Eleanor Michelle Bruch remembered Bartrom as an incredible individual and lamented the loss, stating that he would be missed by many.
Friends of van der Walt, who was piloting the balloon at the time of the crash, also shared their memories of him.
“You were such an incredible individual, always seeking thrilling adventures and making lifelong connections,” expressed Phil Brandt, a close friend. “It’s truly unfortunate that this particular flight might overshadow the countless other remarkable moments that defined you.”
“Just know that many people, including myself, recognize you as an exceptional individual and an outstanding pilot.”
According to David Martzloff, a close friend of van der Walt, he was not only an “avid skydiver and base jumper,” but also had a deep passion for ballooning.
During our conversation, Martzloff enthusiastically shared his experience working on the ground crew for Mr. Smith, who had a treasure trove of captivating stories about his home country, Namibia.
According to Rhonda, Wiescholak’s mother, his girlfriend, Kinsey, was among the individuals who parachuted off the balloon prior to the crash.
According to Rhonda, she was accompanying him during the incident, but she had already disembarked from the balloon before it crashed. She explained that all the individuals involved in the air flights had already jumped out of the balloon prior to the accident.
In the next few weeks, Wiescholak’s father, Gary, shared that his son had intentions to marry Kinsey.
He said that his wife discovered their plan to get married at the courthouse in the near future, possibly within a few weeks.
During the interview with the news station, Gary mentioned that Wiescholak had sent a final text to Kinsey when things started going wrong in the balloon.
As he made his way down, he sent her a text message. The message read, “Goodbye, this isn’t going to be good, I love you.” With those words, he ended the conversation.
According to his mother, everyone loved him because he had a genuinely caring nature. “He was the kind of person who would go to great lengths to help others,” she said.
A campaign on GoFundMe aims to collect funds for his funeral expenses.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Kiliccote resided in Chicago, Illinois, and worked as an engineer at Orsted.
In 2022, he successfully completed his studies at Carnegie Mellon University and graduated.