Friday, May 9, 2014

Eagle Balloons Corp C-7, N3016Z: Fatal accident occurred May 09, 2014 in Ruther Glen, Virginia

NTSB Identification: ERA14FA231 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 09, 2014 in Ruther Glen, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/06/2015
Aircraft: EAGLE C-7, registration: N3016Z
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Witnesses to the accident reported observing the balloon approaching the landing zone from the south where another balloon had just landed. A video obtained from one of the witnesses showed that, as the balloon descended and approached the landing site, the pilot engaged the burner; however, shortly after, the balloon struck power lines, which resulted in a spark. Subsequently, the basket and a section of the balloon’s envelope caught fire. The balloon then began an accelerated climb and drifted out of the camera’s view. The wreckage was found about 6 miles north of the power lines. Examination of the wreckage revealed no preexisting mechanical anomalies with the balloon.

Federal Aviation Administration guidance on balloon flying states that, if there is an obstacle between the balloon and the landing site, the pilot should either give the obstacle appropriate clearance and drop in from altitude; reject the landing and look for another landing site; or fly a low approach to the obstacle, fly over the obstacle allowing plenty of room, and then land. It is likely that the pilot identified the power lines late in the approach and ignited the burner to climb but that insufficient time remained to clear the power lines.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s inadequate approach and his failure to maintain clearance from power lines, which resulted in a subsequent fire. 

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On May 9, 2014, about 1940 eastern daylight time, an Eagle C-7 Balloon, N3016Z, was destroyed by fire after a landing attempt to a field and subsequent impact with powerlines near Ruther Glen, Virginia. The commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local sightseeing flight that departed from Meadow Event Park, Doswell, Virginia, approximately 4 miles to the south of the accident location. The local sightseeing flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

Multiple eyewitnesses reported that the accident balloon approached the intended landing area from the south where another balloon had just landed. As the accident balloon approached the landing site, the pilot engaged the burner; however, the balloon struck powerlines, which resulted in a spark. A video obtained from a witness indicated that as the pilot approached the intended landing area, he engaged the burner for about 15 seconds prior to impacting the powerlines. Subsequently, the balloon basket and a section of the envelope caught fire. The balloon then began an accelerated climb and drifted out of the top view of the video recording. 

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 65, held a commercial pilot certificate, with a rating for lighter-than-air free balloon, which included a limitation for hot air balloon with airborne heater. He did not hold, nor was he required to maintain, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate. According to a souvenir card, being handed out at the balloon festival, the pilot had 31 years of experience and over 660 hours of flight time. 

BALLOON INFORMATION

According to FAA and balloon maintenance records, it was equipped with two aluminum propane tanks, a wicker basket, and a 78,133 cubic foot envelope. In addition, it contained a small pod of instruments that consisted of a vertical speed indicator, altimeter, and envelope temperature gauge. The most recent annual inspection, on the balloon, was performed on August 5, 2013, and at that time it had accumulated 270.4 hours of total time in service. 

The balloon was comprised of a basket, which was composed of wood, padding, woven wicker, rope handles for passengers to hold onto, and a fuel cylinder compartment which contained the two fuel cylinders. Attached to the top center of the basket were the single burner valve/can, coils, pilot light regulator, and pilot light valve. Fuel lines ran from each of the two fuel cylinder tanks, up opposite sides of the basket, and attached to the burner can assembly. The balloon envelope was comprised of nomex and nylon panels. The envelope throat was to be attached to the top of the basket with cables. 

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The 1854 recorded weather observations from Hanover County Municipal Airport (OFP), Ashland, Virginia, located approximately 12 miles to the south of the wire strike site, included wind from 180 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 10 miles, few clouds at 12,000 feet above ground level (agl), temperature 28 degrees C, dew point 14 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.99 inches of mercury.

An FAA inspector that was at the launch site prior to the flight departing stated that a mandatory safety briefing by the event organizer reviewed the weather conditions with the pilot participants of the balloon festival including the accident pilot. In addition, he stated that "wind conditions were measured on site several times prior to launch to establish a trend. I recall winds were slowly decreasing, from initially about 12 knots to some as low as 6 knots at the surface. The winds aloft indicated that winds by 1000 feet were increasing in velocity and shifting the course to the right." 

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The debris path was approximately 6 miles in length and was oriented on a northeast heading from the attempted landing field. The balloon impacted electrical powerlines that were about 30 feet agl near the attempted landing field. Several pieces of charred material were present in the vicinity of the powerline. Two aluminum propane fuel tanks, a hand-held fire extinguisher, the instrument pod, and various pieces of the charred envelope fabric, that were associated with the lower portion of the balloon envelope, were recovered along the debris path. Both propane fuel tanks were intact but exhibited thermal and impact damage and were devoid of fuel.

The balloon crown, crown ring, deflation port, and the burner were recovered on May 27, 2014, approximately 9 miles northeast of the takeoff location and about 5.9 miles north of the powerline strike location. An examination of the recovered components was performed on August 25, 2014, at a salvage facility located in Clayton, Delaware. 

The balloon crown, crown ring, deflation port, basket bottom, and burner remained attached through several cables. The balloon envelope was torn in several sections. Several vertical and horizontal load tapes were torn. The skirt and throat of the balloon were torn and exhibited thermal damage. The crown line remained attached to the top of the envelope and the crown ring was found with all retained cords attached. Cord continuity of the crown, vent, and deflation line was established from the top of the envelope to the balloon basket. The bottom section of the deflation line exhibited thermal damage. The wood section of the basket was burned away, but the bottom section of the basket remained attached to the heating system of the balloon through stainless steel wires. 

The single burner remained attached to the basket frame. The valve block assembly, burner can, coil assembly, liquid fire jet assembly, and igniter assembly all exhibited thermal discoloration. The fuel lines remained attached to the burner assembly but exhibited thermal damage. When the burner assembly handle was operated, it did not exhibit any anomalies. In addition, the burner assembly was able to move freely among the assembly frame as designed. 

Further examination of the two recovered propane cylinder tanks revealed that the main valve on the center aluminum cylinder was damaged by fire and its position was not able to be determined. In addition, the fuel quantity gauge on each tank exhibited thermal damage and could not be read. 

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Richmond, Virginia, conducted an autopsy on the pilot on May 12, 2014. The autopsy listed "blunt force trauma" as the cause of death. 

Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated no ethanol was detected. However, both Fexofenidine and Valsartan were detected in the blood and liver. 

According to the FAA Aerospace Medical Research, Forensic Toxicology Drug website, Fexofenadine, marketed under the trade name Allegra, was known as a nonsedating antihistamine used in the treatment of hay fever symptoms and the common cold. 

According to the FAA Aerospace Medical Research, Forensic Toxicology Drug website, Valsartan, marketed under the trade name Diovan, was an angiotensin II receptor antagonist, commonly referred to as an Angiotensin Receptor Blocker or "ARB." It was typically used for the treatment of high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and post-myocardial infarction. 

TESTS AND RESEARCH 

Handheld Global Positioning System

A Garmin 12 handheld global positioning system (GPS) was sent to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recorders laboratory for download in Washington, DC. The Garmin 12 handheld GPS system did not contain any pertinent information to the accident investigation. 

A Garmin Rhino 530HCX handheld GPS was recovered and sent to the NTSB recorders laboratory for download in Washington, DC. The Garmin 530HCS GPS did not contain any pertinent information to the accident investigation. 

Cellular Phones

Three cellular phones were sent to the NTSB recorders laboratory for download. The cellular phones held photographs prior to the accident, but did not contain any photographic documentation of the accident itself. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Witness Photographs

Several photos were submitted by witnesses. In particular, a witness located in another balloon that landed at the intended landing zone of the accident balloon, photographed another balloon landing at the intended landing zone site. In the photograph, the other balloon is shown on the ground in the field and unmarked powerlines are noted above a road just prior to the intended landing field. In addition, the photograph showed that the field that was the intended landing zone site had several trees just prior to it and located in front of the powerlines. 

Powerline Information

According to the power company, after the accident, they dispatched a team of employees to examine the powerlines. Upon examination, they noted that there was no structural damage to the lines. One phase line had a burn mark on the side that was closest to the intended landing zone. According to the power company, the powerlines were three-phase lines that were 7,200 volts phase to ground.

Balloon Flight Manual 

In the "Normal Flight Operations" section of the balloon flight manual, there was a note that stated, "Extreme care and judgment should be used in selection of landing sites in avoiding downwind powerlines."

In the "Performance" section of the balloon flight manual, it stated "during certification, the maximum demonstrated surface winds for landing were 7 knots." In addition, it stated that the "maximum demonstrated surface wind for take-off [was] 5 knots."

FAA-H-8083-11A Balloon Flying Handbook

In Chapter 3, "Preflight Planning," it stated "Almost all balloon flying is done in relatively benign weather conditions and mild winds. Most pilots prefer to launch and fly in winds less than 7 knots. While balloon flying is performed in higher winds, pilots accept that the faster the winds, the more they are exposed to risk and injury."

In Chapter 7, "Inflight Maneuvers," stated in part "One technique to determine if the balloon is ascending, flying level, or descending is to sight potential obstacles in the flight path of the balloon as the balloon approaches the wires, the pilot should determine how the wires (or other obstacles) are moving in his or her field of vision relative to the background. If they are moving up in the pilot's field of vision, or staying in stationary, then the balloon is on a descent that may place the pilot and passengers at risk. Conversely, if the wires are moving down in the pilot's field of vision, then the balloon is either in level flight or ascending, and able to clear the obstacle. Vigilance is required for constant scanning of the terrain along the flight path, and the pilot must be alert to avoid becoming fixated on sighting objects." In addition, it stated that "the balloon actually responds to a burn 6 to 15 seconds after the burner is used." 

In Chapter 8, "Landing and Recovery," it stated, "Having the skill to predict the balloon's track during the landing approach, touching down on the intended landing target, and stopping the balloon basket in the preferred place can be very satisfying. It requires a sharp eye trained to spot the indicators of wind direction on the ground. Dropping bits of tissue, observing other balloons, smoke, steam, dust, and tree movement are all ways to predict the balloon track on its way to the landing site. During the approach, one of the pilot's most important observations is watching for power lines." 

In addition, Chapter 8 reviews, "To summarize, if there is an obstacle between the balloon and the landing site, the following are the three safe choices.
1. Give the obstacle appropriate clearance and drop in from altitude.
2. Reject the landing and look for another landing site.
3. Fly a low approach to the obstacle, fly over the obstacle allowing plenty of room, and then make the landing."

Lastly, Chapter 8 addressed a "high-wind landing," which stated "When faced with a high wind landing, the balloon pilot must remember that the distance covered during the balloon's reaction time is markedly increased. This situation is somewhat analogous to the driver's training maxim of "do not overdrive your headlights." For example, a balloon traveling at 5 mph covers a distance of approximately 73 feet in the 10 seconds it takes for the balloon to respond to a burner input—a distance equal to a semi-truck and trailer on the road. However, at a speed of 15 mph, the balloon covers a distance of 220 feet, or a little more than two-thirds of a football field. A pilot who is not situationally aware and fails to recognize hazards and obstacles at an increased distance may be placed in a dangerous situation with rapidly dwindling options."

NTSB Identification: ERA14FA231 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 09, 2014 in Ruther Glen, VA
Aircraft: EAGLE C-7, registration: N3016Z
Injuries: 3 Fatal.


This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On May 9, 2014, about 1940 eastern daylight time, an Eagle C-7 Balloon, N3016Z, was destroyed by fire after a landing attempt to a field and subsequent impact with powerlines near Ruther Glen, Virginia. The commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight that departed from Meadow Event Park, Doswell, Virginia, approximately 3.75 miles to the south of the accident location. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Multiple eyewitnesses reported that the accident balloon approached a field from the south where another balloon had just landed. As the accident balloon approached the landing site, the pilot engaged the burner; however, the balloon struck powerlines, which resulted in a spark. Subsequently, the balloon basket and a section of the envelope caught fire. The balloon began an accelerated climb and drifted out of sight.

The debris path was approximately 1.75 miles in length and was oriented on a 025 degree heading from the attempted landing field. Two stainless steel propane fuel tanks, a hand-held fire extinguisher, the instrument panel, and various pieces of the charred envelope fabric, associated with the lower portion of the balloon envelope, were recovered along the debris path. Both propane fuel tanks were intact but exhibited thermal and impact damage. The balloon crown, crown ring, deflation port, the burner, and two other propane fuel tanks were not recovered.

The balloon was equipped with four propane tanks, a wicker basket, and a 78,133 cubic foot envelope. The most recent annual inspection on the balloon was performed on August 5, 2013, and at that time it had accumulated 270.4 hours of total time.

A Garmin 12 handheld global positioning system and three cellular phones were located, removed, and sent to the NTSB Recorder Laboratory for download.


Daniel T Kirk 

Daniel T Kirk
September 22, 1948 - May 9, 2014

Biography
Daniel T. Kirk, of Hartly, died Friday May 9. He was 65.

He was born September 22, 1948 in Miami, FL to Donald J. Kirk and Verna England Kirk.

He enlisted in the United States Army as a Private in 1970, raising to rank of Staff Sergeant. He graduated from officer candidate school in 1980 and retired as Lieutenant Colonel in 2007 after serving 10 years in the US Army Reserves and 24 years active duty with the United States Army. Dan had many interests including motorcycling, auctions, home improvements, and helping his parents but ballooning and his wife were his passions. He was a commercial hot air balloon pilot and avid patriot; he flew "Support Our Troops" and the American Flag from his balloon. He was a member and Treasurer of Hartly United Methodist church, Secretary of the Experimental Aircraft Association of Delaware, member of the Vietnam Veterans Association and the Balloon Federation of America.

Dan is survived by his wife, Janice Gray Kirk of Hartly; his parents Donald and Verna England Kirk of Dover; daughter Becky Kirk, of Virginia Beach, VA; son David of Raleigh, NC; step-daughter Kim Kraft and husband Peter of Indianapolis, IN; brother Donald Kirk II (Buddy) of Corpus Christi, TX; sisters Pamela Joy of Ashland, OR and Sandy Billings of Dover, DE and granddaughter Gabby Kraft.

Funeral services will be held at 1pm on Saturday May 17th at the Hartly United Methodist Church, 85 Main Street, Hartly, DE. A reception will follow at the Hartly volunteer Fire Company. Interment will be in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

In lew of flowers memorials may be sent to the Great Eastern Balloon Camp http://www.bfacamps.com/eastern-balloon-camp.html or the United Methodist Church, 85 Main Street, Hartly, DE 19953.
Memorial Services

Saturday May 17, 2014, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM at Hartly United Methodist Church Cemetery.

http://www.torbertfuneral.com

 


DOSWELL, V.A. (KRQE) – Hot air balloonists everywhere are in shock. A popular balloon pilot who took off Friday night in a Virginia balloon festival hit a set of power lines in a crash that turned dramatic and deadly. Captain Daniel Kirk was a familiar face in Albuquerque, too. He was a very experienced balloon pilot who loved the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Kirk is also at the center of Friday night’s horrific crash in Virginia. 

 “All we saw was just stuff falling from the sky, the basket, the balloon, everything was on fire,” recounts witness Joanne Strange.

It was the first ever Mid-Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Festival near Richmond, Va. Yet, it ended almost as soon as it began once the balloon hit the power lines and burst into flames.

“Witnesses tell us they heard two explosions from the hot air balloon. At one point, the gondola and the balloon separated and then the balloon took off at a rapid pace,” says Virginia State Police’s Corinne Geller.

Three people were on board – two University of Richmond basketball staff members and the craft’s pilot, Daniel Kirk.

In 2011, Kirk attended Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta.

“The competition and the flying. This is the largest hot air event in the world,” he said in an interview at the event.

Kirk had been flying since the early ’80s and his passion for balloons brought him to Albuquerque.

Kirk’s website shows “Starship,” the balloon involved in the Virginia crash, flying over the Rio Grande during another Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta event.

Balloon Fiesta records show he did not participate in last year’s fiesta. Kirk was among more than 20 teams participating in the Virginia festival, an event that led to “Starship’s” last flight.

Witnesses report seeing two of the passengers jump from the gondola once it caught fire Friday night.

“You could hear them screaming, ‘Please, dear God. Sweet Jesus. Help us. We’re gonna die. Oh, my God, please help us. Please help us,’ ” witness Carrie Hagar-Bradley says.

The search for Kirk and his two passengers began immediately. So far, recovery crews have found the remains of Kirk and one of his passengers. The search for the second passenger continues.

Kirk appeared to have a clean safety record. In the 2011 Balloon Fiesta video, he claimed to have not had a single injury in almost 30 years of flying.


 http://registry.faa.gov/N3016Z

NTSB asking for more oversight of balloons; operators’ group opposed

RICHMOND —The hot air balloon crash that killed three people in Caroline County on Friday was the first major crash of its kind in the U.S. since 1993, but a steady occurrence of nonfatal crashes has attracted the attention of the National Transportation Safety Board.

In an April 7 letter, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman asked Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael P. Huerta to hold hot air balloon operators to the same standards required of for-hire airplane and helicopter operators.

“The potential for a high number of fatalities in a single air tour balloon accident is of particular concern if air tour balloon operators continue to conduct operations under less stringent regulations and oversight,” she wrote.

The letter listed several accidents involving hard landings and other safety threats.

She requested that the FAA require hot air balloon operators to acquire a “letter of authorization” from the FAA.

Such a step, she said, would subject those operators to periodic safety checks and better assure that operators and pilots were properly trained.

She said that while an accident like the one in which 19 people were killed in Egypt in 2013 has not occurred in the U.S., it is possible.

“Based on the number of recurring accidents in the United States involving similar safety issues, the NTSB believes that air tour balloon operators should be subject to greater regulatory oversight,” she said in her letter.

The FAA has yet to act on the recommendation.

The Balloon Federation of America, which represents balloon operators and enthusiasts, is opposing the recommendation.

The “NTSB’s recommendation will not enhance safety, but will add another layer of unnecessary federal oversight to an already challenged FAA,” it says in a letter posted on the group’s website.

“Such a regulation would prove burdensome to the tour flight business owners and their pilots in both time and money to comply with the regulation. It would likewise stretch the FAA’s already thin resources of inspectors required to initially implement the program and then oversee its ongoing compliance and enforcement.

“Additionally such a regulation could require significant financial expenditure and investment of FAA personnel resources for the education and training of its inspector ranks, many of whom lack an extensive knowledge base of hot air ballooning and the unique business of balloon sight-seeing tour flights.”

In the past two decades, the most notable crashes have occurred outside the U.S.

In addition to the balloon fire that killed 19 of 21 people in Egypt in 2013, accidents killed six people in Slovenia and 11 in New Zealand the year before.

The last major accident in the U.S. was in 1993, when six people died after a balloon hit a power line near Aspen, Colo.



 
Natalie Mattimore Lewis 

One of the three people who were aboard the hot air balloon that caught fire and crashed in Virginia Friday was a 24-year-old staff member of the women's basketball team at the University of Richmond, her parents said Saturday.

Natalie Lewis, director of basketball operations for the university's Spiders program, graduated from the school in 2011. While enrolled, Lewis was a four-year varsity letterwinner and two-time captain of the swim team.

Lewis' body has not been found. Her parents said they remain hopeful as more than 100 searchers comb through the woods and fields for the third victim and the balloon wreckage.

"The search continues for our beloved daughter and we remain hopeful and ask for your continued prayers," read a statement from Patricia and Evan Lewis.

Her mother also told NBC News, "We don’t have a loss yet, we have a tragic accident. We remain hopeful.”

The remains of the pilot and the second passenger were recovered in the densely wooded area but have not been identified.



The balloon ascended around 8 p.m. Friday as part of a precursor to the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Meadow Event Park. But officials say it hit a utility line, which caused it to erupt into flames, shoot into the sky and then explode.
The Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival was cancelled, organizers said in a statement.
 
http://www.nbcnews.com

'Stunned': University of Richmond Mourns Staffers on Hot Air Balloon 

University of Richmond officials said two of the three people aboard the hot air balloon that caught fire and crashed in Virginia Friday were staff members of its women's basketball team.

A statement released Saturday said associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis were aboard the balloon that crashed shortly before 8 p.m.


The remains of the pilot and one passenger were recovered in the densely wooded area but have not been identified.

Lewis' parents said they remain hopeful as more than 100 searchers comb through the woods and fields for the third victim and the balloon wreckage.

 In a statement, President Edward L. Ayers said the two women were beloved by the community.

"Their leadership and friendship will endure in the lives of so many," Ayers said.

"Words cannot begin to express our sorrow," said Keith Gill, director of athletics. "We are all stunned by the tragic news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones."

Lewis graduated from the University of Richmond in 2011. While enrolled, she was a four-year varsity letterwinner and two-time captain of the swim team. She joined the school's athletics program in 2012.

Doyle served on the Spiders' staff for 16 years and helped guide the team to nine winning seasons, the university statement said. As a student-athlete, she was a two-time all-conference player.

The balloon ascended as part of a precursor to the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Meadow Event Park. But officials say it hit a utility line, which caused it to erupt into flames, explode and crash.

Ginny Doyle



 
 http://youtu.be/CfvLVgo2sjk
Published on Jul 29, 2012 
Having just gotten my fixed wing pilot's license I decided to learn how to experience "man's first flight," lighter than air. Capt. Dan Kirk had spent a lot of time training me for this day. This was actually my third flight in Caroline County, Maryland. Join us for 15 minutes of flight and landing.

 




Meadow Event Park decides to discontinue balloon festival after tragedy

 CAROLINE, VA (WWBT) -  Meadow Event Park has decided to discontinue the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival after a hot air balloon tragedy.

"It's just so sad," said Gwynn Owens. "I feel so sad for all of them."

Owens was sad to learn two of three victims from the tragic hot air balloon accident were found near her home. NTSB agents converged on her property.

 "They said about 700 meters," said Owens. "That's where the body was. I'm just so amazed at these people who could get through this mess. Those are briars and blackberries and just terrible things back there."

Virginia State Police said the remains were found 1500 yards apart.

"It was really amazing to me how respectful and quiet everyone was," said Owens. "That's why I didn't take any pictures or anything. I thought that would have been the supreme invasion of the privacy of those people."

Greg Hicks with Meadow Event Park says they have decided to discontinue the Mid-Atlantic Balloon festival.

 "Just a terrible feeling comes over you when you see something like that," said Hicks who says the park is now working on a fund for the family members of the victims.

"Will you all be making an initial donation?" we asked Hicks.

"Yes ," replied Hicks. "We're not sure how much yet, but that will be decided over the next several days. Whatever we do…it's not enough, but we have to do something."

Hicks says they also plan to refund all 4,000 people who bought tickets for the balloon event.

Sources tell NBC 12, search & rescue teams have recovered the remains of balloon pilot, Dan Kirk --- known to his buddies as Captain Kirk. NBC News spoke with his father, who called this a "freak accident" --- saying his son was always very cautious.   

The rescue team also recovered Associate Head Coach of the women's basketball team at the University of Richmond -- Ginny Doyle. We are told crews will resume their search for Natalie Lewis, the 24-year-old director of basketball operations at University of Richmond at first daylight.


Source:   http://www.nbc12.com

The pilot of the air balloon that caught on fire before exploding, leaving two dead and a third presumed dead, was an Army veteran with 30 years of ballooning experience, family said.

The father of pilot Daniel T. Kirk confirmed to NBC News that his son was the operator of the balloon that caught fire during a balloon festival Friday night in Virginia.

Donald Kirk said his son was a retired lieutenant Army colonel who served in the military for 37 years.

Friday's crash was "just a freak accident," Kirk said. He added that he had flown with his son more than 40 times and he was always very cautious.

Police would not identify the victims of the accident, but Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said during a news conference Saturday that they were not all residents of Virginia.

 Geller also shared the registration number of the Eagle Corp. hot air balloon, which indicates the balloon was registered under Kirk's name, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. Kirk's ballooning certification was issued in 1996, and the balloon in Friday's accident was certified in 2001, according to the documents.

The balloon had not been recovered and may have been incinerated in the explosion, Geller said Saturday.

Kirk was the "Pilot in Command" of Starship Adventures, where he offered "scenic hot air balloon flights over the beautiful DelMarVa area," according to the website, which invites guests to "come touch the clouds."

"I look forward to booking your flight and introducing you to man’s oldest form of flight," said a letter written by Kirk on the site.



DOSWELL, Va. (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board says it will have a preliminary report on a deadly balloon crash in Virginia in 10 days.

An air safety investigator said Saturday that officials have yet to examine the records of the balloon or the pilot.

Investigator Heidi Moats said once the recovery of the wreckage is complete, the agency will "examine the man, the machine and the environment."

Searchers have recovered the bodies of two of three people who were on the balloon when it drifted into a power line, caught fire and crashed Friday night. They were looking for the balloon and the third occupant on Saturday.


A family spokeswoman says a University of Richmond women's basketball team staff member was one of two passengers on a hot air balloon that crashed in Virginia.

DOSWELL, Va. —  A family spokeswoman says a University of Richmond women's basketball team staff member was one of two passengers on a hot air balloon that crashed in Virginia.

Family spokeswoman Julie Snyder told The Associated Press on Saturday that Natalie Lewis' body has not been found.

The remains of the pilot and the second passenger have been recovered. They have not been identified.

The three were in a balloon Friday night that witnesses said crashed amid screams for help from the balloon.

Lewis was director of basketball operations at Richmond and a former swimmer there.

=========

The hot air balloon that burst into flames in eastern Virginia on Friday night, presumably killing all three on board, appears to be a freak accident — and uncommon for a leisurely activity associated with color and calm.

Since 1964, the National Transportation Safety Board has investigated 775 hot air balloon incidents in the United States, 70 involving fatalities. Sixteen people died while hot air ballooning from 2002 to 2012, the NTSB said.

“People have been flying hot air balloons safely, since 1783 to be exact, long before the Wright Brother's first successful powered flight in 1903,” air safety expert Carl Holden told USA Today last year.

While experts stress the safety of flying, some of the most deadliest hot air ballooning accidents have occurred in recent years.

The deadliest occurred in February 2013, when a hot air balloon caught fire while floating over Luxor, Egypt, killing 19 of the 21 on board.

In 2012, a hot air balloon hit a power line in New Zealand and burst into flames, killing 11 people. In 2008, a balloon caught fire in Phoenixville, Pa., killing 4 passengers.

All hot air balloons operated in the U.S. must be inspected annually or every 100 hours of flight time if operated commercially, according to Federal Aviation Administration rules. Hot air balloon pilots are required to successfully complete a flight review every two years.

The Balloon Federation of America, the official national aero club for all balloonists, acts as an organizer for the more than 50 balloon clubs in 31 states and Canada.

Friday's accident occurred during a gathering of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival in Caroline County, Va. — one of over 200 festivals that have taken place since 2013.
The largest festival in the world occurs every October in Albuquerque, N.M., attracting 750 balloons.
 
DOSWELL, Va. (WRIC) - At least three people are unaccounted for after a hot air balloon caught fire Friday evening at the Meadow Event Park on the eve of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival.

Shortly before 8 p.m. on May 9, a hot air balloon caught fire before ascending into the air. Sources at the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office say the balloon may have caught fire after hitting a power line, and that some passengers were seen jumping from the balloon.

Virginia State Police are responding to the incident and held a press conference at 10 p.m. Friday. According to VSP spokeswoman Corrinne Geller, there was a pilot and possibly two passengers aboard the balloon. The wreck has not yet been found, and no injuries or deaths have been confirmed.

"Multiple troopers, deputies ... will continue through the night until we find the wreckage," Geller said.

The Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival at the Meadow
was scheduled to take place at the park on Saturday and Sunday. The Virginia Farm Bureau has canceled the event in the wake of the accident in the following statement:

"The Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival regrets that there was a safety incident involving one of the balloons participating on the evening of May 9. Virginia State Police and local officials are on-site and trained for any emergency. Emergency officials responded to the incident. According to VSP, a balloon caught fire and crashed northeast of the Meadow Event Park. No wreckage has been found yet, and there are no confirmed injuries or fatalities. However, the pilot and at least two passengers are missing. A ground search is currently under way involving VSP, the Federal Aviation Administration as well as Caroline and Henrico County law enforcement and EMS personnel. State Police report that bad weather elsewhere in the Richmond vicinity has grounded air search for the time being. A balloon festival spokesman said the remainder of the event has been canceled. Details regarding advance ticket purchases for Saturday's and Sunday's events will be announced soon."

ABC 8News Digital Content Producer Lindsey Leake spoke with Dawn Howeth, a photographer from Tappahannock, who witnessed the flaming balloon. She was there to see the Balloon Glow, where patrons gather to see the balloons lit up from the inside. She says only 1,500 tickets were available for the event. Howeth said the balloons went north, up into the air and were supposed to come back down. One didn't.

"All of a sudden, we could see a balloon rise up that was obviously on fire," Howeth said. "We watched something large fall from it, assuming it was the basket. There were three people in it when it took off."

Howeth says a friend in the Caroline County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management told her the basket had been located--without a trace of the passengers.

"It was awful ... on fire going farther and farther away," Howeth said. "I can't tell you how high up it was, but it was a good distance away."

Howeth says she's glad she didn't have her zoom lens on hand when she witnessed the tragedy.

"Part of me wishes I had a zoom lens on, the other part of me is glad I didnt," she said. "What I saw is bad enough in my mind."

ABC 8News Reporter Claudia Rupcich spoke with Cole Holocker, who also witnessed the incident. He told her he felt helpless watching flames and smoke take down the balloon.

Stay with ABC 8News on air, online and on the go for updates on this developing story as they become available.


Story and photos:   http://www.wric.com