Hot air balloon with at least three on board catches fire, crashes in Virginia

A hot air balloon that took off with at least three people on board caught fire and crashed on Friday evening in Virginia. -- PHOTO: NANCY JOHNSON/ INSTAGRAM
A hot air balloon that took off with at least three people on board caught fire and crashed on Friday evening in Virginia. -- PHOTO: NANCY JOHNSON/ INSTAGRAM

VIRGINIA - A hot air balloon that took off with at least three people on board caught fire and crashed on Friday evening in Virginia.

Preliminary information indicated that the balloon apparently struck a power line and then caught fire, CNN quoted Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Kathleen Bergen as saying.

The incident happened over Doswell around 7.30pm local time,according to the report.

Witnesses reported the balloon ablaze and crashing somewhere north-east of Meadow Event Park, according to Virginia State Police spokesman Corinne Geller. Images from the scene show one balloon well above the ground, with its basket in flames, said CNN.

NBC News reported that authorities were still looking for the wreckage hours later.  Due to weather conditions, the operation was restricted to a ground search, according to the report. "At this point, we've found no wreckage," said Ms Geller.

The status of the pilot and two passengers believed to be on board was not immediately known, she added.

"We will continue through the night," Ms Geller was quoted as saying. "We've got additional resources coming in until we find the wreckage."

The incident came one day before the scheduled start of the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which is set to run through the weekend. On its website, the event's organisers invite people to "get up close and personal with 20 hot air balloon teams from across the country."

The event has been cancelled in light of Friday's incident, according to a post on the festival's Facebook page.

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