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Hot air balloon crash victim texted girlfriend, ‘I love you, goodbye’

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One of four hot air balloon passengers killed when it crashed in Arizona had texted his girlfriend to say, “I love you, goodbye” — which she only saw after landing from a skydive from the balloon, oblivious to its tragic fate.

Chayton Wiescholek, 28, of Union City, Michigan, was one of 13 people aboard the balloon on Sunday — with his girlfriend, Kinsey Taylor, among eight skydivers who jumped before any signs of trouble, Fox 17 reported.

Taylor only realized something had happened when she landed and saw the heart-wrenching message, Wiescholek’s parents revealed.

“She looked at her phone and had a message from my son. It said, ‘I love you.’ He knew he was going to die,” mom Rhonda Wiescholek told Fox 17.

“Chayton texted Kinsey on the way down and said that this ain’t gonna be good, ‘I love you, goodbye,’ and signed off. So his last thoughts were with his girlfriend,” Wiescholek’s dad, Gary, told the outlet.

The panicked girlfriend immediately tried calling her beau after her safe landing.

Hot air balloon victim Chayton Wiescholek sent his girlfriend, Kinsey Taylor, a final heartbreaking message, “I love you, goodbye,” before he died along with three other people. Facebook / Chayton Wiescholek

“Somebody else answered his phone and said, ‘This is not good, you need to be here now,” dad Gary  told KTVU of his son, who’d told his parents he planned to marry Taylor.

“She shedded her parachute harness and she ran two miles to get to him and officials wouldn’t let her near him.”

The balloon had crashed about 7:50 a.m. Sunday in a desert area in Eloy, a small town some 65 miles northwest of Phoenix known as “the skydiving capital of the world.”

Four people were killed and one critically injured Sunday in a hot air balloon crash in Arizona, police said. KTVU

In addition to Wiescholek, Kaitlynn Bartrom, 28, of Andrews, Indiana; Atahan Kiliccote, 24, of Cupertino, California; and pilot Cornelius Van Der Walt, 37, of Eloy and originally from Namibia, died in the disaster.

Valerie Stutterheim, 23, of Scottsdale, survived but remains hospitalized.

Rhonda Wiescholek caught the first flight to Arizona when she heard of the tragedy, she said.

Chayton Wiescholek was planning to marry Kinsey Taylor. Facebook / Chayton Wiescholek
Taylor had parachuted from the balloon before the tragic accident. Facebook / Chayton Wiescholek

“I’m staying here until I can take my son home. I am not leaving without him,” she told Arizona’s Family.

She said her son lived with Taylor and their cats in Union City, Michigan, about two hours west of Detroit. They were vacationing in Arizona at the time of the crash.

“There’s not a whole bunch more you can say. You’re just broken,” the heartbroken mom told the outlet. “He was just up in the balloon to be with her and all the skydivers had jumped out of the balloon and then something went wrong and we still don’t know what.”

Chayton’s “last thoughts were with his girlfriend,” according to his dad. Facebook / Chayton Wiescholek

​Amid the grief, Rhonda Wiescholek is finding some peace.

“Knowing that he was happy, yes. Because that’s all I’ve ever asked of my children is I want you happy and he was happy with her. So, I know he was happy,” she told Arizona’s Family.

In a GoFundMe page, the family said they “want to continue to remember Chayton, as the life of th​e party, the adventure seeker, and solid voice of reason.

“For most, when we sit and reminisce on our fondest memories with Chayton we smile because that’s what he did, lit everything and everyone up with him,” they added.

Kaitlynn “Katie” Bartrom, 28, pilot Cornelius Van Der Walt, 37, and Atahan Kiliccote, 24, were also killed in the crash.

Skydivers Tanya Toliver and David Boone said they’ve been on pilot Van Der Walt’s doomed balloon.

“That balloon was the first balloon that I did my first hot air balloon ride on and skydive on and we’ve jumped on that balloon so many times,” Toliver told ABC 15.

“It hit me as a shock. Just because, you know, Cornelius is always super careful. He’s very, very aware of what he’s doing. He’s been doing it for a long, long time and he only got better with time,” Boone told the outlet.

“He was just an excellent balloon pilot. It’s not like he wasn’t experienced to dropping skydivers. There’s definitely [a] different way to do it. So he knew what he was doing,” he added.

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said the balloon crashed after an unspecified problem with its envelope, according to ABC 15.

The agency noted that no mechanical problems were found during its initial examinations of the balloon, and that everything appeared to be intact on the basket.

The accident remains under investigation.




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