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All 3 victims in Virginia hot air balloon crash identified

All 3 victims in Virginia hot air balloon crash identified
Lynn Shultz
News
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 7:59am

Officials have now identified all three people killed in the hot air balloon fire and crash at a Virginia festival.

They are the 65-year-old pilot, Daniel Kirk; and two passengers: Natalie Lewis, 24, and Virginia "Ginny" Doyle, 44.

Both Lewis and Doyle were members of the University of Richmond women's basketball program, the university said.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic event and the loss of Ginny. Words cannot express how we feel or our remorse," the Doyle family said in a statement Monday. "She touched the lives of many and lived life to the fullest. She will be greatly missed and holds a special place in all our hearts."

What authorities still do not know is what caused the balloon to drift into power lines, catch fire and crash Friday night. Police and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Norm Hyde, spokesman for festival host Meadow Event Park, said Federal Aviation Administration inspectors were on site Friday, checking balloons and safety records before the balloons took off.

All the balloons' safety records were up to date, he said.

Weather conditions are one of the elements investigators are looking at, NTSB air safety investigator Heidi Moats said.

There was no inclement weather at the time and, so far, officials don't believe those conditions played a role in the crash, Geller said over the weekend.

Thirteen hot air balloons had been soaring on the eve of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival in Doswell, and three were landing close to each other. Two landed safely, Geller said, but as the third balloon descended, it hit a power line, sparking a fire that spread quickly.

The pilot began doing his safety maneuvers and "took every step to manage the situation," Geller said. But then there was an explosion, and the basket and balloon separated. 

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