May 21, 2014
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued preliminary findings on their investigation of a hot air balloon accident that left three people dead. The report is consistent with eyewitness accounts of the May 9 crash, which killed pilot Daniel Kirk and passengers Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis. Kirk was a 66-year-old Army veteran that had been flying balloons for over 30 years. Doyle and Lewis both worked for the athletic department at the University of Richmond.
Witnesses were able to capture footage of the crash, which apparently occurred at around 7:40 p.m. as Kirk was attempting to land the balloon in a field near Ruther Glen. Multiple people reported seeing the balloon approach the landing field from the south where another balloon had just landed. Kirk engaged the burner at roughly the same time that the balloon struck power lines, which caused a spark. The balloon basket and a section of the envelope caught fire just as the balloon began an accelerated climb. People reported seeing two of the balloon's occupants either jump or fall out as the basket section was engulfed in flames.
The incident remains under investigation.
The Dangers of Hot Air Balloons
- Hot air balloons can carry as many as 20 people.
- 109 people have died in 63 hot air balloon accidents in the U.S. since 1964, according to the NTSB aviation accident database.
- The NTSB has asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to apply stricter regulations to hot air ballooning.
- Most crashes come after collisions with trees, power lines or buildings.