Search under way after hot air balloon 'catches fire' in Virginia

Reuters News
Posted: May 10, 2014 12:38 AM

(Reuters) - A hot air balloon carrying three people is believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia late on Friday, though a search for the wreckage has been hindered by bad weather, balloon festival organizers said.

Officials were searching for the pilot and two passengers after the balloon "apparently hit a power line and caught fire" in Doswell, about 30 miles north of Richmond at 7.30 p.m. local time (8 p.m. EDT)), said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

The balloon was taking part in the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival and crashed near a park, organizers said in a statement on the festival website, quoting Virginia state police. A spokesman said the remainder of the events through Sunday have been canceled.

"No wreckage has been found yet, and there are no confirmed injuries or fatalities," event organizers said.

Media said one or two balloons drifted into power lines and caught fire. There was no official confirmation.

A ground search was under way involving state police, the Federal Aviation Administration, and local law enforcement and emergency workers, officials said.

"State police report that bad weather elsewhere in the Richmond vicinity has grounded air search for the time being," organizers wrote on the website.

The festival's website listed a "Friday Flights Happy Hour" from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson)