Two people have been confirmed dead today after a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed near Doswell, Va. on Friday night.
A second body was recovered today, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said in a press conference. The first body was found in a wooded area just before midnight, the Associated Press reports. Neither has been identified.
Because of the time elapsed since the crash about 8 p.m. Friday, the search for two other occupants has shifted from a rescue operation to a mission to recover the remains, Geller said.
A third victim, identified as Natalie Lewis by a family spokesperson, remains missing. Lewis is reportedly an athletic official at the University of Richmond and a former basketball player for the school.
Authorities have not located the basket or the balloon, but officials have found various debris. Geller also said there were a total of 13 hot air balloons that took flight Friday evening as part of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival.
Police received reports from witnesses that two occupants may have fallen or jumped from the burning balloon. According to WWBT TV, witnesses also reported hearing what sounded like explosions and seeing the gondola and balloon eventually separate.
Carrie Hager-Bradley was on her way home from the grocery store and saw the balloon on fire. She told NBC12's Curt Autry she could hear cries from the people onboard.
"They were just screaming for anybody to help them. 'Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help, I'm going to die - oh my God, I'm going to die,'" Hager-Bradley told NBC12.
One witness told The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg that some balloons landed safely in her yard, but she and others saw the other balloon blow up.
"As soon as we looked up, the thing blew up right there," [Debra Ferguson] said. "All I heard was 'Oh my God, Oh my God' and all you saw was the top of the balloon still flying, but all of the basket was gone. All of the flames just disappeared."
"It was so high up and so far away," she said. "It was like a match, poof, and then it was gone."
The crash occurred near the Meadow Event Park in rural Caroline County, about 25 miles north of Richmond. The festival was set to go on through the weekend, but has been canceled.Zeninjor Enwemeka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Zeninjor.