Hot air balloon catches fire, crashes in Virginia
Hot air balloon catches fire, crashes in Virginia

A hot air balloon carrying at least three passengers has caught fire and crashed in Virginia.

Rescuers are searching for a wreckage and survivors, Virginia State Police said.

Three people are believed to have been on board the balloon, which was reportedly preparing for a competition, when it crashed on Friday shortly before 8pm US time.

The two passengers and a pilot remain unaccounted for, police said. Names are yet to be released.

Hot air balloon catches fire over Virginia. Photo: Twitter

Poor weather conditions have restricted the rescue operation to a ground search.

A Virginia State Police spokeswoman told said witnesses had reported the gondola portion of the balloon had caught fire, though the cause remained unknown.

Hot air balloon catches fire and crashes over Virginia. Photo: Instagram

Cole Hocker told NBC News he noticed black smoke in the distance and saw the balloon collapsing.

“We saw black smoke coming from an object," he said. "Couldn't tell what it was. We thought it might be exhaust from a helicopter around the base and then, when we came close to it, we could see it was a balloon.”

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