- Associated Press - Saturday, May 10, 2014

DOSWELL, Va. (AP) — A second body was recovered Saturday from the crash of a hot air balloon carrying three that drifted into a power line and burst into flames in front of hundreds of horrified spectators.

More than 100 searchers were called in to scour the woods and fields of the central Virginia site of the crash for the third victim and any remnants of the balloon or its basket, state police said.

None of the victims has been identified.


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Witnesses said they heard the anguished pleas of the passengers Friday night as the balloon touched the power line and erupted into flames.

On the ground, “It was complete silence,” eyewitness Nancy Johnson said. “There were people praying. It was horrible.”

The balloon crashed Friday night ahead of an inaugural balloon festival. It was among 13 balloons that took off from Meadow Event Park, home to the State Fair of Virginia, and was approaching a landing site nearby. Two of the balloons landed safely before the third hit the live power line.


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The pilot attempted to retain control of the balloon and snuff the fire and two passengers either jumped or fell from the gondola, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

“Then witnesses recall hearing an explosion and the fire continued to spread,” Geller said. The gondola and the balloon then separated.

Federal investigators were at the scene in rural Carolina County.

Troy Bradley, past president of the Balloon Federation of America, said most serious accidents on balloons — including fires, electrocution or baskets becoming severed — happen after hitting power lines. Most of the time it’s due to pilot error, he said.

Fatal accidents happen less often than with other types of aircraft, Bradley said.

“Hundreds of thousands of flights will go without any notice. That one that hits the news gets all the attention, but ballooning is a very, very safe form of aviation.”

The crash occurred on the eve of the official start of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which was canceled followed the crash. The area is about 25 miles north of Richmond.

Johnson said the crash occurred in an instant.

“One minute the balloons were hovering in a field behind Event Park, the next everyone is pointing at sky,” she said.

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