Hot air balloon catches fire over Virginia; search on for 3 people

(CNN) — A hot air balloon burst into flames and crashed in Virginia on Friday night, prompting a search for the wreckage and the three people believed to have been on board, a state police spokeswoman said.

Virginia State Police first got word of the incident in Doswell, 25 miles north of Richmond, shortly before 8 p.m., said spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

Witnesses reported the balloon was on fire before crashing somewhere northeast of Meadow Event Park, according to Geller. Images from the scene show one balloon well above the ground, with its basket in flames.

About two hours later, authorities still didn’t know exactly where the balloon ended up. Nor did they know the condition of the one pilot and two passengers thought to be on board, according to Geller.

“We’ve been actively searching,” the state police spokeswoman said. “At this point, we have found no wreckage.”

There was no rain at the time, Geller said, though severe storms rolling through could complicate the search.

The incident came one day before the scheduled start of the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which is set to run through the weekend. On its website, the event’s organizers invite people to “get up close and personal with 20 hot air balloon teams from across the country.”

There was no immediate word whether the festival would continue in light of the incident.

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