Lynn Shultz captured this photo of the hot air balloon on
fire. REUTERS/Lynn Shultz
Two people were killed and another missing after a hot
air balloon hit a power line and caught fire over Virginia
during a festival, police say.
Authorities have not identified the victims and were
conducting a search in the air and with more than 100 people
on the ground for the third person who was in the balloon's
basket at the time of the Friday evening (local time)
accident about 50km north of Richmond.
"We still have not located the basket or the balloon. We do
continue to keep finding debris and various items that would
have been on the hot air balloon," Virginia State Police
spokeswoman Corinne Geller told a televised news conference.
She said there were eyewitness reports that two people were
seen tumbling from the basket after the balloon caught fire,
but said it was unclear if they fell or jumped.
Two other balloons had landed at a designated landing site
before the accident with the third balloon, Geller said.
Witnesses posted photos online showing a balloon in mid-air
with its basket engulfed in flames and a trail of smoke
spilling into the sky.
Many said there was an explosion as it hit the line and the
balloon then separated from the basket carrying the
passengers. People on the ground could hear screams from
those in the balloon, witnesses said.
"They were just screaming for anybody to help them," resident
Carrie Hager-Bradley told a local NBC affiliate.
More than 20 hot air balloon teams from across the United
States were to take part at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline
County. The Saturday and Sunday events were cancelled.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National
Transportation Safety Board were investigating the accident.