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Reports: Hot-air ballon catches fire in Virginia

DOSWELL, Va. (AP) - A hot-air balloon is believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia after colliding with a power line Friday night, according to state police, who were searching for the wreckage, a pilot and two passengers after eyewitnesses said they saw the balloon in flames and heard screams for help.

Virginia State Police received calls about a balloon crash shortly before 8 p.m., police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told a news conference, according to several news media reports. She said a pilot and two passengers were believed to be on board, and that police believe it was the balloon's gondola that caught fire after it apparently struck a power line.

She said police had not yet found any wreckage but planned to search throughout the night, initially by ground and possibly by air if weather allowed. Severe storms were forecast for the area, she said. Geller did not immediately respond to a telephone message left by The Associated Press.

Carrie Hager-Bradley said she saw the balloon in flames on her way home from the grocery store and heard people yelling, according to WWBT TV.

"They were just screaming for anybody to help them," the station quoted her as saying. "'Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I'm going to die. Oh my God, I'm going to die,'" Hager-Bradley said she heard one person screaming.

The apparent crash happened near the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County, site of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, according to the news reports. The festival was scheduled to begin officially on Saturday, but was holding a special kickoff event Friday for a limited number of people, according to the reports, which said organizers have now canceled the rest of the festival.

Some hot air balloons landed safely in Debra Ferguson's yard, she was quoted by The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, Virginia, as saying.

She said one of the men in the balloons pointed up at another still in the air and said he thought it might be in trouble.

"As soon as we looked up, the thing blew up right there," the newspaper quoted Ferguson as saying. "All I heard was, 'Oh my God, Oh my God,' and all you saw was the top of the balloon still flying, but all of the basket was gone. All of the flames just disappeared. ... It was like a match - poof - and then it was gone."

Caroline County resident Paula Dustin said she and her family and a friend were watching the balloons inflate and take off when they saw one in the distance that appeared to be in distress.

"We saw a glow, and you could tell the bottom of the balloon was in flames," Dustin was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

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RKMuggsy31 May 10 2014 at 10:25 AM

Maybe it's about time for mandatory fire extinguishers on all hot air balloon rides.

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3 replies
Marykatemaggie May 10 2014 at 10:44 AM

These people were someone's friends and family. This isn't really the forum to lame one-liners or political comments. My sincere condolences to the families.

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erink91321 May 10 2014 at 9:18 AM

Very dangerous sport. Power lines and balloons do not work well together

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twhodog1 May 10 2014 at 9:20 AM

hope they lived if not hope they were republican

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10 replies
skitzlpk May 10 2014 at 9:21 AM

So wouldn't it be a good idea for the hot air balloon industry to change the status of all gondolas to being electrically insulated? I mean this isn't the first time I've heard of a gondola inadvertently making contact with power lines & having disastrous results.

How much could it cost to simply rubberize them & drop a few quick opening chutes in an emergency hatch around the rim of the gondola?

I'd opt for at least having a small chance of survival vs. none.

I accidentally dropped a tree on a power line once & you'd be amazed how fast it fried that completely green & very moist sapling.

This is a terrible way to die,, sincere condolences..

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Amber May 10 2014 at 10:38 AM

I'm abhorred with all these terrible comments on here. These people lost their lives doing something they loved or maybe it was their first time and they wanted to be adventurous? It was an accident. I'm sure you have done something or wanted to do something that was as brave and they were, like climbing a mountain, bungee jumping off a bridge, or jumping out of a plane, ect. These people aren't ignorant, these people were LIVING!! May God Bless Their Souls!

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philsun73 May 10 2014 at 9:29 AM

Every time that i read of a "Hot Air" balloon tradegy I wonder why people go up in those things. When you are up there, you are at the mercy of the wind. You really have no directional comtrol except for a slow descent, and even with that; in a sudden strong gust of wind, you haven't a clue what you are going to land in. terribly sorry for those people. Not a very pleasant way to go.

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1 reply
blueeyessing philsun73 May 10 2014 at 10:14 AM

Our State Fair opens every year with about 120 balloons going up all at once/at the same time. It is a miracle there has never been an accident. They must all be very experienced balloon pilots or had luck on their side.

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Craig May 10 2014 at 9:36 AM

Sweet Jesus must have had the day off.

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4 replies
lanchr4 May 10 2014 at 9:37 AM

We are talking about other Humans! It doesn't matter what they were in life or political world. I pray for their Survival. God be with them.

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ducklakeman May 10 2014 at 9:47 AM

too bad obama weren't on board

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9 replies
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