NTSB releases preliminary report on cause of May 9 hot-air balloon crash

A hot air balloon crash May 9 near Richmond, Va. killed the pilot and two passengers. (AP Photo)

(WJLA) - A preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Administration (NTSB) sheds light on the cause of the deadly hot-air balloon accident that claimed the lives of the pilot and two University of Richmond women's basketball team staff on May 9.

The Eagle C-7 balloon took off from Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Va., about 25 miles north of Richmond.

According to NTSB, eyewitnesses said the balloon attempted to land in a field about 3.75 miles from where it took off, and where another hot air balloon had just landed shortly before.

"As the accident balloon approached the landing site, the pilot engaged the burner; however, the balloon struck power lines, which resulted in a spark," the report stated.

"Subsequently, the balloon basket and a section of the envelope caught fire. The balloon began an accelerated climb and drifted out of sight," the report continued.

The balloon was equipped with four propane tanks, a wicker basket, and a 78,133-cubic-foot envelope. The most recent annual inspection on the balloon was performed on Aug. 5, 2013, and at that time it had accumulated 270.4 hours of total time.

Two stainless steel propane fuel tanks, a hand-held fire extinguisher, the instrument panel, and various pieces of the charred envelope fabric, associated with the lower portion of the balloon envelope, were recovered along the 1.75-mile-wide debris path, officials said.

"Both propane fuel tanks were intact but exhibited thermal and impact damage," the report stated. "The balloon crown, crown ring, deflation port, the burner, and two other propane fuel tanks were not recovered."

A Garmin 12 handheld global positioning system and three cellular phones were located, removed, and sent to the NTSB recorder laboratory for download.

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