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Helium-powered air balloon crashes after snagging power line in Iowa; 2 killed

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Posted: November 16, 2007 7:07 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2007 7:16 a.m.
    HAMPTON, Iowa — A helium-powered balloon hit a power line and crashed onto a north-central Iowa farm field on Friday, killing two men and injuring a third, a sheriff said.
    The balloon was descending when it hit the line around 9:15 a.m. The balloon and the basket separated and the basket fell 60 feet to the ground, Franklin County Sheriff Larry Richtsmeier said.
    Residents who had come out of their house to wave at the balloonists saw it hit the power line, called 911 and rushed to the scene, he said. They found the basket on its side in a grassy field.
    Marillyn Korth and her husband had heard from neighbors that the balloon was heading in their direction so were watching for it from their living room window. They said it seemed to suddenly stop.
    Their son was outside working on farm equipment and saw it hit the lines and yelled for his parents to call 911.
    ‘‘I was going to go out there to wave at them because that’s very exciting. We don’t see very many balloons,’’ she said. ‘‘But it didn’t end up being that exciting. I’m glad at least someone was there. At least we could watch and get help.’’
    Two passengers died at the scene. The third was flown by helicopter to a hospital. That person’s condition wasn’t immediately known, and the victims’ names were not released. At least one was believed to be from Colorado.
    Investigators from the sheriff’s office remained at the scene and officials from the Federal Aviation Administration had arrived to assist in the investigation.
    Richtsmeier said paperwork found in one of the men’s pockets indicated they had spent Thursday night in the Omaha, Neb., area. They were flying beneath a helium balloon, rather than a more common hot air balloon powered by propane burners, Richtsmeier said.
    On Friday morning, there were high scattered clouds and winds of 15 to 20 mph from the south, Richtsmeier said.
    Hampton is located in north-central Iowa.

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