Caldwell County Justice of the Peace on hot air balloon crash

- Many questions remain one year after the hot air balloon crash that tragically claimed the lives of 16 people near Lockhart.

In an exclusive interview, FOX 7 spoke with the Caldwell County Justice of the Peace about what's next in the investigation.

Justice of the Peace Matt Kiely said one of the biggest issues that tragic day, was that there were no regulations. It's something many hope will change and, possibly provide some justice for the victims' families.

Sunday, July 30th, marked one year since the nation's deadliest hot air balloon crash.

"Did we learn anything from this? We learned a whole lot. Do we ever want to go through this again? No," said Kiely, Caldwell County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1.

There were 15 passengers, and the pilot, inside the balloon when it hit a power line and caught fire just outside of Lockhart. None of them made it. A memorial was held on Saturday for family and friends.

"Going back out to the actual site was to give family members the opportunity to actually be in the same location that their family members had perished. It was to let first responders be able to explain to them, if they had any questions, what was going on that day," said Kiely.

The final investigatory hearing is set for October. That's when we are expected to find out what caused the crash. The final report from the NTSB will come a few weeks later. But, Caldwell County Justice of the Peace Matt Kiely says what we do know, is the pilot shouldn't have been flying that day. A toxicology report proved that.

"One, the cocktail of medications he had in his system and the fog we had going on. I mean, those are the obvious things. He didn't have his driver's license but he could fly a balloon? The only direction he could go was up and down, he couldn't go side to side," said Kiely.

Over the past year there has been a lot of discussion on regulations. Senator Ted Cruz filed a bill in June that would put balloon pilots on par with other types of pilots and require them to undergo medical exams. Kiely agrees.

"We need to increase the regulations on hot air balloon pilots and how they're regulated. They need to be regulated just like someone flying a small plane or a large plane, helicopter, anybody that goes into the sky," said Kiely.

Until then, Caldwell County says what they're working on is being there for the families.

"It's just a healing process. Sometimes they want to talk but they don't want to talk to a family member. We're here to talk to them and they know that," said Kiely.

Justice of the Peace Kiely says they are waiting on the NTSB's final report in order for the county to start their full assessment.

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