DOSWELL, Va. (CBS DC/AP) — 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.
Virginia State Police received calls of the 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 gondola that caught fire.
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 television station.
“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 canceled the rest of the festival.
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