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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Search under way after hot air balloon 'catches fire' in Virginia

Eric M. Johnson

Published 10/05/2014 | 09:23

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This photo provided by Nancy Johnson shows what authorities say is a hot-air balloon that was believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Virginia State Police received calls of the crash shortly before 8 p.m., police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told a news conference. Geller said a pilot and two passengers were believed to be on board, and that police believe it was the gondola that caught fire. (AP Photo/Nancy Johnson)
This photo provided by Nancy Johnson shows what authorities say is a hot-air balloon that was believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Virginia State Police received calls of the crash shortly before 8 p.m., police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told a news conference. Geller said a pilot and two passengers were believed to be on board, and that police believe it was the gondola that caught fire. (AP Photo/Nancy Johnson)
The light from a small search plane shines overhead beyond a barn in rural Caroline Co., Va, in the search for a missing hot air balloon on Friday. May 9, 2014.  A hot-air balloon is believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia on Friday night, according to state police, who were searching for the wreckage, a pilot and two passengers after eyewitnesses said they saw the balloon's gondola in flames and heard screams for help.  (AP Photo/ Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer)
The light from a small search plane shines overhead beyond a barn in rural Caroline Co., Va, in the search for a missing hot air balloon on Friday. May 9, 2014. (AP Photo/ Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer)

A hot air balloon carrying three people is believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia late on Friday, though a search for the wreckage has been hindered by bad weather, balloon festival organizers said.

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Officials were searching for the pilot and two passengers after the balloon "apparently hit a power line and caught fire" in Doswell, about 30 miles north of Richmond at 7.30 p.m. local time (8 p.m. EDT)), said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

The balloon was taking part in the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival and crashed near a park, organizers said in a statement on the festival website, quoting Virginia state police. A spokesman said the remainder of the events through Sunday have been canceled.

"No wreckage has been found yet, and there are no confirmed injuries or fatalities," event organizers said.

Media said one or two balloons drifted into power lines and caught fire. There was no official confirmation.

A ground search was under way involving state police, the Federal Aviation Administration, and local law enforcement and emergency workers, officials said.

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The light from a small search plane shines overhead beyond a barn in rural Caroline Co., Va, in the search for a missing hot air balloon on Friday. May 9, 2014.  (AP Photo/ Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer)

"State police report that bad weather elsewhere in the Richmond vicinity has grounded air search for the time being," organizers wrote on the website.

The festival's website listed a "Friday Flights Happy Hour" from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time.

Reuters

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