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Balloon wreckage found in Mattaponi River

Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm

2014 Balloon Recovery (5) WEBBy Sarah Vogelsong
CP Reporter


The search for the missing hot-air balloon that came into contact with a live power line and crashed May 9, killing three, concluded Tuesday morning when the wreckage was found in the Mattaponi River between Milford and Route 301.

Four Caroline County citizens who wish to remain anonymous recognized the blue, yellow, and red of the balloon in the river Monday evening, Caroline County Sheriff Tony Lippa said at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday. One of those citizens then notified Lippa, who subsequently contacted the Virginia State Police and the National Transportation Safety Board.

On Tuesday morning, Sheriff Lippa and a small group made up of members of the Sheriff’s Office and citizens traveled to the site to investigate and remove the balloon from the river.

The balloon, which was still attached to a portion of the basket, was stretched over a distance of roughly 100 feet in the river. Five people were required to pull it out by hand and load it onto a boat.

Although specific numbers are not yet available, Sheriff Lippa said that the balloon was found approximately six miles from the point where it struck the lines and roughly eight to 10 miles from the launch site.

The balloon was one of 13 that lifted off from the Meadow Event Park for a short flight on Friday of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival. Around 7:30 p.m., after 3.7 miles of flight, the balloon struck a power line while trying to land. The propane line was ruptured, leading to uncontrolled fire and a rapid, uncontrolled rise. Witnesses reported seeing people exiting the basket.

The bodies of the pilot and the two passengers have since been recovered and were identified in previous reports as Natalie M. Lewis, 24, of Richmond; Virginia “Ginny” T. Doyle, 44, of Glen Allen; and pilot, Daniel T. Kirk, 65, of Hartley, Delaware.

The balloon is currently being held in a secure location until it can be retrieved by the NTSB.