Hot air balloon explosion in Virginia leaves one dead, 2 missing

By Daniel S Levine,

A fiery hot air balloon crash in Caroline County, Virginia on Friday has left one dead and two missing, state police said Saturday morning. It has now become a recovery operation as police continue their search for the missing two bodies.

State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller confirmed that one body was recovered and the remains were sent to the medical examiner, reports NBC affiliate WWBT. Police did not release the names of the three people believed to be in the balloon at the time of the crash.

They are still searching for the gondola, which they believe became detached from the balloon. Geller said on Friday that the balloon struck a power cord at 7:56 p.m. Friday night. The pilot tried to use emergency maneuver, but witnesses told police that the balloon and the gondola came apart. At that point, witnesses say they heard two explosions.

“At this time we are still searching for the two others that were in the balloon as well as the wreckage site, the basket and the balloon itself,” Geller told the media, reports USA Today.

“They were just screaming for anybody to help them. 'Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help, I'm going to die - oh my God, I'm going to die,’” witness Carrie Hager-Bradley told WBBT. She added that her daughter believed she saw a person fall from the balloon.

The balloon was one of three that went up in the air from Meadow Event Park during the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival. The other two did land safely.

Festival organizers said that the remaining events on Saturday and Sunday have been cancelled.

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