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Coroner releases information regarding hot-air balloon fatalities

Most everyone in Virginia heard about the hot-air balloon accident that occurred recently. As investigators continue to look for pieces of the wreckage and complete their investigation, the Medical Examiner's Office released information regarding the causes of the fatalities. One of the passengers and the pilot died from blunt force trauma to various parts of their bodies. The second passenger died from an acute thermal injury.

Three hot-air balloons took off that day for a two-mile trip and were in the process of landing when the accident occurred. The first two cleared the power lines and landed safely. The third balloon hit a power line and caught on fire. The pilot's efforts to put out the fire failed. He then reportedly attempted to open the balloon to prevent a rapid ascent due to the excess heat.

Despite the efforts that witnesses say the pilot made to save their lives, the balloon did rise rapidly after the gondola somehow broke free. Conflicting reports exist regarding whether the occupants fell out of the gondola or jumped in an attempt to escape the fire. It took hours for all three bodies to be recovered.

The investigation has yet to determine why the pilot hit the power line, causing the fatalities. Nevertheless, the families of the two passengers retain the right to file wrongful death claims against the party or parties deemed responsible for their deaths. If a Virginia court is convinced of those parties' negligence, damages such as pain and suffering and funeral and burial costs may be awarded to cover the unexpected financial burdens incurred as a result of this horrific accident.

Source: wtvr.com, "Causes of death released for victims in hot-air balloon accident", Alix Bryan, May 13, 2014

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