Three people unaccounted for after hot-air balloon catches fire in Virginia

A hot-air balloon in flames Jim Cox

CAROLINE COUNTY, Virginia -- A hot-air balloon caught fire and apparently crashed Friday at the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival in Virginia, the CBS affiliate in Richmond, WTVR, reports. Authorities say three people are unaccounted for, The Associated Press reports.

The Virginia State Police said that they were notified of the crash near Meadow Event Park in Caroline County about 8 p.m.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said that a pilot and two passengers were believed to be in the balloon's gondola, and that according to witness accounts it was the gondola that caught fire. But she said police had not yet found any wreckage.

Geller said police would search for the balloon throughout the night, initially on the ground and possibly later by air if weather conditions improved. Severe storms were expected in the area.

The event was an inaugural one for Richmond. The first night kicked off with live music, food and drinks. Hot air balloon teams from all over the United States were expected to participate.

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