At least two die in Virginia hot air balloon crash

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Media captionCorinne Geller, Virginia State Police Department gave an update to journalists

At least two people have died after a hot air balloon hit a power line and burst into flames in front of a horrified US crowd.

The bodies were found after Friday's accident in Richmond, Virginia.

Two passengers jumped or fell from the gondola as the pilot attempted to control the balloon, police say.

It had been one of 13 that took off from Meadow Event Park and was approaching a nearby landing site when it drifted into the live cable.

One witness said she saw the balloon in flames and heard people screaming.

"They were just screaming for anybody to help them," Carrie Hager-Bradley told WWBT TV, adding that one person had screamed: "Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I'm going to die. Oh my God, I'm going to die."

Image copyright AP
Image caption The emergency operation has moved from rescue to recovery efforts

None of the victims has been identified, and around 100 people were scouring nearby woods and fields for the third victim and remnants of the balloon.

It drifted upwards rapidly after the crash, being propelled by the intense flames beneath, witnesses said.

The balloon had been scheduled to take part in Saturday's Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which was subsequently cancelled.

"Because of the time that has transpired since the hot air balloon crash Friday evening and the fact that we have not been able to make any contact with any of the three occupants that were in the hot air balloon we are now transitioning from a rescue operation to a recovery operation," said police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

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