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Reports: Hot-air balloon appears to catch fire in US; 3 unaccounted for after crash

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This photo provided by Nancy Johnson shows what authorities say is a hot-air balloon that was believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Virginia State Police received calls of the crash shortly before 8 p.m., police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told a news conference. Geller said a pilot and two passengers were believed to be on board, and that police believe it was the gondola that caught fire.

NANCY JOHNSON / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

This photo provided by Nancy Johnson shows what authorities say is a hot-air balloon that was believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Virginia State Police received calls of the crash shortly before 8 p.m., police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told a news conference. Geller said a pilot and two passengers were believed to be on board, and that police believe it was the gondola that caught fire.

DOSWELL, Va. - A hot-air balloon is believed to have caught fire and crashed in the U.S. with three people aboard, state police said Friday.

Eyewitnesses said they saw the balloon's gondola in flames and heard screams for help.

A pilot and two passengers were believed to be on board, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told a news conference, according to several news media reports.

She said police had not yet found any wreckage but planned to search throughout the night. 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 and heard people yelling, according to television station WWBT.

"They were just screaming for anybody to help them," the station quoted her as saying. She said she heard one person screaming, "'Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I'm going to die. Oh my God, I'm going to die."

The apparent crash happened near the site of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, according to the news reports. The festival was scheduled to begin Saturday but was holding a special event Friday for a limited number of people, according to the reports, which said organizers have cancelled the rest of the festival.

History

Updated on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 12:50 AM CDT: Adds photo.

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