What caused a hot air balloon to slam into power lines at a Virginia festival?
Monday, May 12, 2014, 11:30 -
Hours before the ill-fated flight at a hot air balloon festival in Doswell, Virginia, one of the victims documented her apparent excitement with a series of Instagram pictures.
One of them with the eerie caption, "Tried it at 6:30 am but was too foggy. Will go up this evening #anxiety."
The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating a crash that killed three people, the pilot and two passengers, one month after the agency issued a letter to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration urging greater safety regulations meant to "address operational deficiencies in commercial sightseeing (air tour) balloon operations."
"During the investigation, we will examine the man, the machine and the environment," says Heidi Moats with NTSB Air Safety.
The balloon hit a power line Friday night as it came in for landing, catching fire. Then, a small explosion separated the basket from the balloon and witnesses say two people jump or fall.
Weather conditions in the area were relatively breezy at the time, with winds from the south at 10-15 km/h, according to weather.com meteorologist Chrissy Warrilow.
Daniel Kirk, the pilot, had 30 years of experience and according to his father "was a very safe pilot."
A police spokesperson says the pilot was seen doing safety maneuvers and was "taking every effort he could to manage the situation and extinguish the fire."
A spokesperson for Meadow Event Park, where the balloon festival was held, says that the FAA was on site inspecting balloons a records pre-flight.
An FAA spokesperson wouldn't comment on the investigation, saying only that the FAA safety inspectors routinely conduct surveillance at airshows, balloon festivals and other aviation events.