Third body found in US hot air balloon horror

Witnesses watched in horror last Friday as the balloon caught fire in the evening sky after hitting a power line as it was coming down into a pre-designated field near the state capital Richmond. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/LYNN SHULTZ
Witnesses watched in horror last Friday as the balloon caught fire in the evening sky after hitting a power line as it was coming down into a pre-designated field near the state capital Richmond. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/LYNN SHULTZ

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Rescue personnel on Sunday located the body of the third and final victim from a hot-air balloon that burst into flames upon its descent in the US state of Virginia.

Witnesses watched in horror last Friday as the balloon caught fire in the evening sky after hitting a power line as it was coming down into a pre-designated field near the state capital Richmond.

The burning balloon then surged back up, before plummeting down again and smashing into the ground.

The balloon and gondola separated at some point, witnesses said, and the pilot had attempted to fight the fire while flying the balloon.

Two of the three people aboard were already confirmed dead and their bodies found.

"At about 11am on Sunday, the remains of the third occupant were discovered. This discovery was approximately 100 yards (91m) north of where the second occupant was found on Saturday," Virginia State Police spokesman Corrine Geller said in a statement.

"Now that the male pilot and two female passengers have all been located, this concludes the large-scale search efforts of the operation."

More than 100 personnel were involved in Sunday's search of a large swath of land that included a heavily wooded area.

The rest of the two-day Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival was cancelled after the crash.