Two Virginia Balloon Crash Victims Identified

By: CBSNews
By: CBSNews

Two members of the University of Richmond women's basketball staff were passengers on a hot air balloon that crashed in Virginia Friday night, CBS News has confirmed.

One victim, Natalie Lewis, was the director of basketball operations for the Richmond Spiders. Her parents arrived in Richmond Saturday from their hometown of Buffalo, New York, CBS News' Mark Albert reports.

Friends of the balloon captain, Dan Kirk, called him a true ambassador to the sport of hot air ballooning.

The balloon's basket caught fire after touching a power line near Doswell, Virginia, north of Richmond, the state capital.

Search crews combing the dense woods Saturday for the three victims' bodies recovered two of them 1,500 yards apart.

Carrie Bradley heard people yelling for help just before the basket carrying them broke apart.

"You could hear them screaming, 'Please dear God, sweet Jesus, help us. We're going to die. Oh my God, please help us. Please help us,'" Bradley said.

Bradley and other witnesses saw the balloon hit power lines while trying to land.

"It was kind of like a pop, but when that happened the basket exploded and debris started falling to the ground," Bradley said.

Seconds after it hit the power lines, police say the balloon pilot tried to vent the balloon and contain the fire.

"He had to act very rapidly before the gondola and the balloon actually separated," Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said. "Based on the witness accounts, he made every effort to do everything he could in his power to save his passengers' lives and his own."

The NTSB arrived in Doswell to investigate. Event organizers canceled this weekend's balloon festival.

Posted by: Lindsay Sax


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