A balloon crash has left two people dead and another missing in Virginia after their hot air balloon flew into a power line and burst into flames before a crowd of horrified spectators.
The accident happened Friday night in Virginia and was part of a balloon festival. A total of 13 balloons took off from the home of the Virginia State Fair and were approaching their landing when one of the balloons struck a power line.
The pilot tried to regain control as two passengers either jumped or fell from the gondola, said state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller. The two bodies were found nearly a mile apart, she noted.
On the ground, witnesses say the balloon crash was horrific.
“It was complete silence,” witness Nancy Johnson said. “There were people praying. It was horrible.”
Some of the witnesses were not even part of the festival. Carrie Hager-Bradley said she was returning from the supermarket when she came across the burning hot air balloon.
“They were just screaming for anybody to help them,” she told WWBT TV. One person screamed, “Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I’m going to die. Oh my God, I’m going to die.”
Other witnesses said once the hot air balloon caught fire, it began to ascend rapidly.
“It just kept going up, up, up in the air,” Johnson said.
The balloon crash took place on the eve of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which was subsequently canceled.
The two people killed in the hot air balloon crash were identified as members of the athletic staff at the University of Richmond, associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis. The university held its graduation on Saturday, which became a somber event in the wake of the tragedy.
The third victim in the hot air balloon crash has not yet been found.