I think what captivated my attention to this horrific accident, was the fact that such a joyous adventure could end so tragically, and that it could happen to any of us, quickly, and horribly. It is also amazing, the quantity and quality of media available from multiple, personal sources. Twitter. The Instagram photos from Ginny Doyle, showing herself, her friend Natalie Lewis, and Capt. Daniel Kirk, the day of the accident, actually in the balloon. A notation that morning fog postponed their flight until that afternoon. Wouldn’t most of us think, “What if?”
I was impressed with Capt. Kirk’s professionalism in the above video. But, as I watched, I tried to think what I might have thought and felt during that time of crisis. And, you see in this video the balloon both from the chase vehicle, and from inside the gondola. You see power lines and this balloon. You see the ground from about the distance that they would have been when the flames began to increase. And, the gondola is so small.
We all hope that there is never a situation that we cannot have at least one good alternative, but that was not the case here.
NTSB will do their investigation, but I’m not sure that anything other than “pilot error” will be the outcome. Two other balloons had successfully landed just prior. A seasoned pilot allows his craft to drift into power lines. Visibility? Time of day? Did he just not see the power line until it was too late.
Fire erupts, and then professional damage control.
When you see the flames engulfing the gondola, NTSB might move toward more fire retardant structures. Something that might be both flame retardant, and provide electrical insulation.
I’m not sure what finding the balloon, the gondola, or any other remains of the machine might do toward the investigation. Sure something exploded, but that wasn’t the actual cause of the accident.