Mother, daughter killed in Texas balloon crash were Colorado Springs natives
It was supposed to be a check on the bucket list for Lorilee Brabson, who was killed with her daughter in the deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history.
"My niece Paige, her daughter, got her this gift for Mother's Day," Lorilee's brother Jason Pino told 11 News.
Mother and daughter were among the 16 killed Saturday when the hot air balloon went down in rural central Texas. The investigation is far from over, but the National Transportation Safety Board believes the balloon may have hit one of the massive power lines that cut through the pastureland where the balloon went down. Witnesses described a ball of fire shooting up several stories after the crash.
There were no survivors on board.
Pino, like all the family members, is looking for answers.
"I don't understand what the air balloon pilot was doing. I mean, I don't think it was cloudy and I don't know why he was so close to the transmission lines."
He told 11 News it was supposed to be a joyful day.
"At 6:30 [a.m.], we all started seeing posts from my sister...she's big into posting things on Facebook, and she posted she was going on her bucket list balloon ride. ... [Lorilee and Paige] had been putting it off and putting it off due to weather and finally they got a good weather day.
"All the way until 7:35 she was posting video and pictures -- and then it just stopped."
It wasn't long after that Pino says he heard a balloon hit a transmission line in the same area Lorilee and Paige had been riding.
"My mom started calling everybody frantically, and she had everybody start calling them, and they wouldn't answer none of us. Bill called, her other daughter called, my nephew called, I called, and they weren't answering. We were just praying they were out of service or something."
Sister station KENS 5 in San Antonio reported 14 personal devices, including iPhones, iPads and cameras, were recovered in the wreckage.
"I still wish it was a dream, that my sister was still here. I just pray she didn't suffer and whatever happened up there, it was quick for them. I know everyone is showing all this fire video...but I just pray that God took them quickly."
Pino says he takes some comfort in how happy his sister and niece looked that day.
"One of the last posts [Lorilee] posted...they looked really happy. ... It said 'it's peaceful up here,' and I think she was at peace up there."
Which was how both women lived their lives, Pino told 11 News reporter Dustin Cuzick.
"They were good people. Paige was really happy all the time and exciting, and my sister was really bubbly. She was one of them girls that did everything for everybody. ... They were two wonderful, great girls, and it was too soon."
Lorilee and Paige are both from Colorado Springs -- both attended Harrison High School, but Lorilee graduated from Sierra High School according to family members -- but moved to Texas three years ago. Pino said he got to see them two weeks ago when they were in town for Lorilee's 30th high school reunion.
"That balloon ride was actually scheduled before they came to visit, and it got canceled due to weather, so thank God they came out," he said.
"Embrace your family because you never know. I mean, my sister was here two weeks ago visiting us and I thought I would see her again. ... Now I know I'm never going to see her again."
The family has set up a GoFundMe page for Paige's 11-month-old daughter. We have a link to it under the Find It tab.