Third Body Found After Hot Air Balloon Burns, Crashes in Virginia

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(CNN, May 11, 2014) — Authorities have found the remains of the third occupant of the hot air balloon that burst into flames at a Virginia festival, police said Sunday.

Now investigators are trying to determine what made the balloondrift into power lines, catch fire and crash, killing the pilot and two passengers.

Donald Kirk told CNN on Sunday that his son, Daniel Kirk, was on the balloon when it crashed. The 66-year-old Army veteran had been piloting balloons for more than 30 years, lived for flying and never flew if the weather conditions weren’t right, his father said.

“He was a very good pilot,” Donald Kirk said. “Something happened, I just don’t know what happened.”

Two members of the University of Richmond women’s basketball program were among those aboard, the university said.

Witnesses captured photographs of the balloon after it burst into flames Friday night and crashed into the countryside at the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival about 25 miles north of Richmond. Some reported seeing two people either jump or fall from the basket at a dizzying height.

Investigators found the remains of two occupants on Saturday. They located the remains of the third occupant on Sunday morning, Virginia State Police said.

The remains were found about 100 yards north of where one of the occupant’s remains were found on Saturday, Corinne Geller of the Virginia State Police said.

Police and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

Norm Hyde, spokesman for Meadow Event Park, which hosted the festival, 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.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said she couldn’t confirm whether FAA inspectors were at the Virginia festival, but she said they “routinely conduct surveillance at air shows, balloon festivals and other aviation events.”

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