US aviation officials cite pilot error in hot air balloon crash that killed 3 in Virginia

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RICHMOND, Virginia — The failure of a pilot to stay clear of power lines contributed to the crash of a hot air balloon last year in Virginia that killed him and two passengers, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

The balloon struck power lines and caught fire a year ago Saturday ahead of a festival in Doswell about 25 miles north of Richmond.

The accident killed the pilot, Daniel T. Kirk, and two athletic officials with the University of Richmond. They were associate women's basketball coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis.

The NTSB issued a preliminary report the month of the crash indicating Kirk attempted to gain altitude before the balloon hit power lines and caught fire. The balloon was among 13 that lifted off on a preview night for the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival.

In a report issued Wednesday, the NTSB said "it is likely that the pilot identified the power lines late in the approach and ignited the burner to climb but that insufficient time remained to clear the power lines."

The NTSB determined the probable cause of the accident was "the pilot's inadequate approach and his failure to maintain clearance from power lines, which resulted in a subsequent fire."

The findings were first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.


Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com

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