DOSWELL, Va. (AP) — The Delaware man who piloted a hot air balloon that crashed about 25 miles north of Richmond on Friday, killing all three people on board, had decades of flying experience.
The website of Daniel T. Kirk's company says he had more than 20 years' experience as a hot air balloon pilot and had flown in ballooning events throughout the country. The Starship Adventures website also said Kirk had a commercial balloon pilot license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Kirk's father, Donald Kirk, confirmed that his son was the pilot of the doomed balloon and was killed in the crash. Two passengers, athletics officials from the University of Richmond, were also killed.
Daniel Kirk was known affectionately by fellow pilots as "Capt. Kirk," the hammy commander of the USS Enterprise on the TV series Star Trek.
Steve Hoffmann, who said he built the Eagle balloon that Kirk was piloting in Doswell and taught him to fly, called Kirk "one of the nicest guys in the world" and a consummate professional.
"He was not a hot dog, not a risk taker," Hoffmann said in an interview. "It's so unbelievable that everyone's in shock."
Hoffmann said he was shocked when he learned Kirk was the pilot of the balloon that crashed.
"He was very careful," Hoffmann said. "Something definitely went wrong. This is not the kind of flying Dan would do."
Mark Nelson, a Virginia balloonist, called Kirk "a true ambassador to the sport of hot air ballooning."
"Dan Kirk will be greatly missed by everyone in ballooning across America," he wrote in an email. "Our hearts go out to Dan's family and the families of passengers involved in the balloon accident."
The two others killed in the crash were identified as University of Richmond associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis.