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Hot air balloon tragedy

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A second body has been recovered from the crash of a hot air balloon that drifted into a power line and burst into flames in front of horrified spectators in the US state of Virginia.

The bodies were discovered about 1.6km apart.

More than 100 searchers were called in to scour the woods and fields of the Virginia site of the crash for the third victim and any remnants of the balloon or its basket, state police say.

One of the three victims was identified. A family spokeswoman said Natalie Lewis’ body had not yet been found.

Witnesses said they heard the anguished pleas of the passengers on Friday night as the balloon touched the power line and burst into flames.

Carrie Hager-Bradley said she saw the balloon in flames and heard people yelling.

“They were just screaming for anybody to help them,” she told WWBT TV. One person screamed, `Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I’m going to die. Oh my God, I’m going to die’.”

On the ground, “it was complete silence”, eyewitness Nancy Johnson said.

The balloon crashed ahead of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which was cancelled following the crash.

It was among 13 balloons that took off from Meadow Event Park, home to the State Fair of Virginia, and was approaching a landing site nearby. Two of the balloons landed safely before the third hit the live power line.

The pilot attempted to retain control of the balloon and snuff the fire and two passengers either jumped or fell from the gondola, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

“Then witnesses recall hearing an explosion and the fire continued to spread,” Geller said. The gondola and the balloon then separated.