UK & World News

  • 12 May 2014, 2:37

Balloon Crash Victims Jumped To Their Deaths

Eyewitnesses have described the horrifying moment a hot air balloon went down in Virginia, killing all three people on board.

Witness Carrie Bradley told WWBT TV she saw two of the victims jumping from the balloon after it burst into flames.

She said one could be heard screaming: "Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I'm going to die. Oh my God, I'm going to die."

She described it as "the most horrific thing I have ever witnessed".

Police said they believe the balloon hit a live power line as it was coming in to land shortly before 8pm local time on Friday.

It had been taking part in Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival.

Two bodies were recovered just under a mile apart on Saturday but have not yet been identified.

More than 100 people have been involved in the search for the third victim.

They are also hoping to recover any remnants of the basket.

The pilot of the balloon has been named as Daniel T. Kirk by his father Donald Kirk. According to his company's website he more than 20 years experience as a hot air balloon pilot.

The two passengers were staff members at the University of Richmond. 

The university named them as associate head basketball coach Ginny Doyle, 44, and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis, 24.

Ms Doyle tweeted several times in the hours ahead of the accident.

One of her messages read: "Getting ready to go up in a hot air balloon today. Tried it at 6.30am but (it) was too foggy."

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said 13 hot air balloons were involved in Friday's event.

Two of the balloons landed safely before the third reportedly hit the power line.

Ms Geller said the pilot attempted to retain control of the balloon and put out the fire.

She confirmed two passengers were seen either jumping or falling from the gondola.

Witnesses also reported hearing an explosion before the gondola and the balloon separated.

The National Transportation Safety Board said a preliminary report into the cause of the crash would be released in 10 days' time.

The balloon festival, scheduled to continue into the weekend, was cancelled.