Third body found in hot air balloon accident

A hot air balloon on fire is pictured north of Richmond, Virginia, May 9, 2014, in this handout photo courtesy of Lynn Shultz. Credit: Reuters
A hot air balloon on fire is pictured north of Richmond, Virginia, May 9, 2014, in this handout photo courtesy of Lynn Shultz.
Credit: Reuters

Search teams in Virginia on Sunday discovered the body of the third person who died when a hot air balloon struck a power line and plummeted to the ground in flames, police said.

About 100 people combing a heavily wooded area of Caroline County, about 30 miles north of Richmond, discovered the third body during a foot search, according to the Virginia State Police.

The remains were about 100 yards north of where the second body was discovered on Saturday.

“Now that the male pilot and two female passengers have all been located, this concludes the large-scale search efforts of the operation,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a statement.

Police did not say if the body found on Sunday was the pilot or one of the passengers.

Crews were still looking for the wreckage of the balloon and basket, which became engulfed in flames, killing all three on board when it hit a power line during a hot air balloon festival Friday evening.

Witnesses posted photos and video online showing a balloon in mid-air with its basket on fire and a trail of smoke spilling into the sky.

Two explosions were heard and the gondola separated from the balloon and crashed into the woods, authorities said.

Based on witness accounts, the pilot attempted to regain control of the balloon and manage the fire, and the two occupants were seen exiting the basket, police said.

Administrators at the University of Richmond released a statement saying that associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis were two of the three people in the balloon.

Doyle was a former basketball star at the University of Richmond who graduated in 1992, and Lewis was a championship swimmer at the school and graduated in 2011, the statement said.

“Words cannot begin to express our sorrow,” said Keith Gill, the school’s athletic director. “We are all stunned by the tragic news.”

The identity of the pilot has not been released.

The crash occurred during a hot air balloon festival at Meadow Event Park. The Saturday and Sunday events were canceled.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the accident.



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