Two found dead after balloon catches fire
The authorities searched a wooded area in Virginia on Saturday for a third victim who was believed to have been killed when a hot air balloon caught fire Friday night and crashed at a festival.
The bodies of two of the victims were found Saturday morning and Friday night after an extensive search, the Virginia State Police said Saturday. Crews still had not found the balloon, which took flight Friday from the Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Virginia, about 20 miles north of Richmond.
One passenger in the balloon was Ginny Doyle, a coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Richmond, her brother Raymond Doyle said Saturday. Ginny Doyle, the team’s associate head coach, had played basketball for the university in the 1990s as a starting guard.
On Saturday, organizers for the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival canceled the weekend event. More than 20 hot air balloon teams from across the country had planned to participate in the festival Saturday and Sunday.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was investigating the crash. At a news conference Saturday afternoon, the authorities declined to identify the victims by name until their families were notified.
More than 100 people were searching the area Saturday, the state police said. The crews had found some debris that included items from the balloon, said Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the state police.
The search for the final victim and the wreckage was taking some time because the terrain is dense, Geller said.
“We will continue,” she told reporters. “We will stay here until the third occupant is located.”
The balloon caught fire around 8 p.m. Friday during its descent into a field when it touched a live utility line, the state police said in a statement. Witnesses said the pilot had tried to regain control of the balloon and to manage the fire, the police said.
The two passengers leapt or fell from the balloon’s gondola, the police said.
Witnesses said they heard an explosion, and then saw the balloon separate from the gondola.
The balloon had taken off from the park with 12 other balloons as part of the festival. All of the other balloons landed safely.
Doyle posted pictures to Instagram on Friday as she prepared for the balloon ride. In one picture, Doyle, wearing a Richmond basketball sweater, smiled as she posed next to the basket of a balloon.