RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The power lines a hot air balloon hit before it caught fire and crashed Friday night at the Mid-Atlantic Balloon festival in Caroline County did not appear on maps given to balloon pilots prior to the event.
The NTSB told CBS 6 that this is the first fatal balloon accident in Virginia history.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe confirmed the power line information based on his conversations with Virginia State Police.
“They believe it was flying low and it hit the power line and apparently it wasn’t on the map the pilot was looking at,” Governor McAuliffe said.
There is no indication that had the power lines appeared on the map, Friday’s tragedy could have been prevented. Investigators with both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue working to piece together what exactly caused the balloon to come in contact with the power lines.
Randy Lee – a balloon pilot based in North Carolina who was at the festival this weekend – said it is common for residential power lines to not appear on maps handed to pilots.
“I’m speaking to you as a pilot – we are responsible for obstacle avoidance,” Lee said.
Lee also said that while the landing area may have been the intended destination, landing there would not have been guaranteed – as balloon pilots can’t control landing zones like airplanes.
“In ballooning their is no designated landing area,” Lee said.
The bodies of three people who were riding in the balloon at the time of the time were recovered over the weekend. The Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet officially identified the victims, however friends and family members have identified them as pilot Dan Kirk and passengers Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis.
Both Doyle and Lewis were members of the University of Richmond women’s basketball staff.