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Hot Air Balloon Ride Turns Into Nightmare

Three people were killed in an accident at the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival in Virginia.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Turns Into Nightmare
By Greg Hambrick

Caroline County, Va. – Three people were killed in a freak accident involving a  hot air balloon Friday night at the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival.

The balloon took off about 8 p.m. Friday. During its descent in the landing area, the balloon came in contact with a live utility line, sparking a fire, according to the Virginia State Police.

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, adding she heard one person screaming, "Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help! I'm going to die! Oh my God, I'm going to die!" 

"Our staff is devastated, and we continue to offer our support to all those affected," the festival's website states. "We are setting up a fund to benefit the families involved in the accident and details will be announced the week of May 11."

Witnesses told police the pilot attempted to regain control of the balloon and manage the fire. At one point, the two passengers reportedly jumped from the basket of the balloon, according to Virginia State Police. 

Witnesses then heard an explosion as the fire continued to spread. Local and state law enforcement worked overnight looking for the three occupants and the wreckage of the balloon and basket, according to VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller.

She said one body was recovered about midnight another about 11 a.m. Saturday.

"The FAA also responded to the scene Friday evening. The NTSB has been notified," she said in a statement. "Searches have been conducted by air and on the ground of the rural, heavily-wooded terrain."

The remainder of the  Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival at the Meadow has been cancelled, according to a message at the event website.

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