NTSB Investigating Deadly Hot Air Balloon Accident - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

NTSB Investigating Deadly Hot Air Balloon Accident

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DOSWELL, Va. (WRIC) - The NTSB is continuing its investigation after Friday's deadly hot air balloon accident that claimed the lives of three people including two University of Richmond basketball coaches.

The balloon, taking part in the Mid-Atlantic Ballooning Festival in Doswell, was coming in for a landing Friday night when it hit power lines and burst into flames.  Pilot Daniel Kirk, UR Associate Head Women's Basketball Coach Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis, UR's Director of Basketball Operations were killed.

During a press conference called for an unrelated purpose, Governor Terry McAuliffe for the first time addressed the media on the hot air balloon crash. He noted that the power line struck by a hot air balloon in Friday's deadly Doswell crash may not have been on the map the pilot had.

"They didn't give me anything more than it was flying low and hit a power line that apparently wasn't on the map that the pilot was looking at or not looking at," McAuliffe says. "On Behalf of all of us in the commonwealth of Virginia our hearts and prayers go out to the families who are affected over the weekend by this terrible terrible tragedy."

Aviation experts say things like this will all be things that will be looked at by the FAA during their investigation.

"They are looking at the operation of the balloon company," says aviation analyst Mary Schiavo. "They are looking at the pilot's training. They are looking at the equipment. So the paperwork that goes on behind an investigation may be just as important as what happened in the sky. There are lots of witnesses to that but sometimes the secrets in the paperwork."

While the investigation continues in Caroline County into the exact cause of the deadly crash, there is a growing concern nationally.

While this accident was the first major crash of its kind in the U.S. since 1993, there have been five fatal balloon crashes in the past 12 years. All five deaths in those cases came following collisions into trees, power lines and buildings.

Federal safety officials have recently suggested additional safety systems and design changes.

Last month, the NTSB expressed concern "about the growing number of recurring accidents" involving safety issues and hot air balloons. The NTSB wants the federal aviation administration to treat hot air balloons carrying paying passengers the same way they do helicopters and planes.

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman writes "The potential for a high number of fatalities in a single air tour balloon accident is of particular concern if air tour balloon operators continue to conduct operations under less stringent regulations and oversight."

However, the Balloon Federation of America is opposing the recommendation. Their website says the "NTSB's recommendation will not enhance safety, but will add another layer of unnecessary federal oversight to an already challenged FAA,"

While the FAA has yet to respond to the call for stricter rules, one thing is certain - this accident over the skies of Central Virginia that claimed three lives is putting increased scrutiny on the safety of hot air balloons.

The NTSB says the increased regulation they want for commercial hot air balloons will save lives. They've asked the FAA to respond and take action by July.

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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