Author recalls ride on balloon months before deadly accident

By Samantha Ptashkin - Reporter

HOUSTON - A Houston area author recently wrote a blog about the tragic hot air balloon accident near Austin, months after she took a ride on the same balloon, with the same pilot.

Mary Ann McNulty and three of her girlfriends went on the ride last January.

“I happen to be scared of heights, so this was a way to harness my fear,” McNulty said.

She has fond memories of the sunset journey and was devastated to hear about the recent accident that killed all 16 people on board. She says her ride had 15 people on board.

“It was surreal,” McNulty said. “It was a wake-up moment of how precious life is and how life can just be swept away in an instant.”

She wrote about her journey in her blog, “Reflections from the Heart."

She says the pilot, “Skip,” was very friendly and warm. She now knows he was convicted for several drug and alcohol felonies.

Channel 2 now knows there was no evidence of problems with the Czech-made balloon.

Investigators revealed it made contact with electrical wires spanning about 30 feet before flames engulfed the basket.

“It was a very somber thought thinking about all the lives that were lost,” McNulty said.

The NTSB will write up a report on the crash, but it will most likely take months to complete. In the meantime, the company that owned the balloon, Heart of Texas Balloon Rides, has suspended operations.

To check out McNulty’s blog, click here.

She is also the author of a memoir “Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace."

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2