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Three people remain unaccounted for after Virginia hot air balloon crash

Eyewitnesses say a hot air balloon's gondola caught fire and the craft subsequently crashed somewhere near Doswell, Virginia. Authorities continue to investigate the matter as three people who are believed to have been on board are missing.

Two passengers and a pilot who were believed to have been riding in a hot air balloon that caught fire and crashed on May 9, 2014, are currently unaccounted for, according to BuzzFeed. The incident took place near Doswell, Virginia just prior to the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, the website reports.

A Virginia State Police spokesperson told NBC News authorities were looking for the balloon, but had yet to find it due to unfavorable weather conditions. She noted witnesses saw the balloon’s gondola catch fire. One who saw the balloon as it burned told WTVR it may have drifted into a power lines before plummeting to the ground.

Cole Holocker, 18, who saw black smoke in the distance as he and his family headed to a nearby Army base, told NBC News he was initially unable to tell what the object in the sky was. “We thought it might be exhaust from a helicopter base and then, when we came close to it, we could see it was a balloon,” he said. From about 5 to 10 miles from the crash site, the basket looked as though it had been “burned away” and the balloon “was shrinking,” Holocker added.

BuzzFeed reports that the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office stated earlier that passengers were seen jumping from the balloon’s gondola as flames began to engulf it.

According to WTVR, one or two balloons may have hit power lines and caught fire, reports USA Today. The publication notes that Meadow Event Park, the location for the balloon festival in which the downed craft is believed to have been taking part in, is known for being the birthplace of the race horse Secretariat.

The festival was slated to begin on May 11 and continue through May 12 with balloon teams nationwide expected to participate in the event. According to USA Today, the park’s website announced a “Friday Flights Happy Hour” was also planned.

Greg Hicks, the Meadow Event Park’s vice-president of communications told USA Today that Virginia State Police and the Federal Aviation Administration were currently investigating the incident.

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