Third victim found after balloon crash

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iol pic wld Hot Air Balloon Fire~7 Associated Press This 2013 photograph provided by the University of Richmond shows associate head coach Ginny Doyle. Picture: Frank Strauss, University of Richmond

Virginia - 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.

A search party of more than 100 police and rescue workers found the remains about 90m north of where the second body was discovered on Saturday, police said.

“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.

The father of the pilot identified him as Daniel T Kirk, 65, an Army veteran with over 30 years of balloon piloting experience.

“He was an excellent pilot,” Kirk's father, Donald, told Reuters, adding that he had flown with his son at least 70 times. “He probably had at least 100 trips a year. That was his life.”

The University of Richmond on Saturday had named two of its women's basketball officials as among the three people aboard the balloon.

Authorities said they would not identify the victims until the medical examiner's report.

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 on 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.

The University of Richmond in a statement said that associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis were 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 crash occurred during a hot air balloon festival at Meadow Event Park. The Saturday and Sunday events were cancelled.

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

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