The hot-air balloon crashed Friday during the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival after it struck a power line and immediately caught fire, police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. Despite the pilot's efforts to contain the blaze, witnesses say the gondola and balloon separated. Other witnesses say they heard two separate explosions.
Virginia State Police found one of the victims' bodies before midnight and the second body was found around around 11 a.m. Saturday.
The identities of the victims haven't been revealed, though the Henrico, Va., Citizen reported two of the riders in the balloon were University of Richmond women's basketball staff members.
UPDATE: Two U. of Richmond women's basketball staff members were aboard the hot air balloon that crashed last night in Caroline County.— Henrico Citizen (@HenricoCitizen) May 10, 2014
The school hasn't confirmed the identities, but it did postpone this weekend's baseball games without offering an explanation.
The search for the remaining victim is ongoing, though due to the length of time elapsed since the crash, efforts have been reclassified as a recovery, not a rescue.
One witness told her local NBC affiliate the victims' terror could be heard from the ground.
"They were just screaming for anybody to help them," Carrie Hager-Bradley described to Richmond's NBC12. 'Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help, I'm going to die - oh my God, I'm going to die.'"
As of late, no wreckage has been found. The remainder of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival has been cancelled. Virginia state police issued the following statement concerning the crash:
The Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival regrets that there was a safety incident involving one of the balloons participating on the evening of May 9. Virginia State Police and local officials and law enforcement are on-site and trained for any emergency. Emergency officials responded to the incident.
According to the VSP, a balloon caught fire and crashed northeast of the Meadow Event Park. No wreckage has been found yet, and there are no confirmed injuries or fatalities. However, the pilot and at least two passengers are missing.
A ground search is currently under way involving VSP, the Federal Aviation Administration as well as Caroline and Henrico County law enforcement and EMS personnel. State Police report that bad weather elsewhere in the Richmond vicinity has grounded air search for the time being.
A balloon festival spokesman said the remainder of the event has been canceled. Details regarding advance ticket purchases for Saturday's and Sunday's events will be announced soon.