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Bodies of All Three Aboard Doomed Hot Air Balloon Have Been Found — But One Passenger's Pre-Flight Message Still Haunts


"Getting ready to go up in a hot air balloon today. Tried it at 6:30am but was too foggy. Will go up this evening..."

Image source: CNN via Instagram

The remains of the third person aboard the hot air balloon that caught fire and crashed in Virginia has been found, police said.

Donald Kirk told CNN Sunday that his son, Daniel Kirk, was on the balloon when it crashed. The younger Kirk, a 66-year-old Army veteran, had been piloting balloons for more than 30 years and never flew when weather conditions were off, his father said.

"He was a very good pilot," Donald Kirk told CNN. "Something happened, I just don't know what happened."

Two members of the University of Richmond women's basketball program — associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis — were also aboard.

University of Richmond associate head coach Ginny Doyle, left, and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis. (Image source: AP/University of Richmond, Frank Strauss)

All three died Friday night when their balloon hit a power line, caught fire, and fell to the ground about 25 miles north of Richmond. Doyle and Lewis were there for a special preview of a festival set to open Saturday.

Doyle — a former star player for the school, her university bio notes — posted a message on Instagram about her impending balloon flight Friday: "Getting ready to go up in a hot air balloon today. Tried it at 6:30am but was too foggy. Will go up this evening #anxiety."

Image source: CNN via Instagram Image source: CNN via Instagram

Carrie Hager-Bradley told WWBT-TV in Richmond she could hear the balloon occupants when the situation became dire.

“They were just screaming for anybody to help them. ‘Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help, I’m going to die! Oh my God, I’m going to die!’” she told the station.

Hager-Bradley’s daughter told her she saw one person falling from the balloon basket — then Hager-Bradley also saw an individual falling.

Image source: CNN via  Image source: CNN/Lynn Schultz

The pilot fought the blaze and opened the top of the balloon to let hot air out to prevent it from climbing farther, Geller said, according to an earlier CNN report.

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Two explosions rang out from the balloon, witnesses told police, then gondola and the balloon separated, and the inflatable soared skyward.

David Griffith looked on in disbelief from below. “There was no way these people were coming out of that,” he told WWBT. 

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