Somerset

Midsomer Norton fatal balloon crash probe under way

The crash site
Image caption The balloonists were believed to be attempting a high altitude flight

Air accident investigators are trying to find the cause of a hot air balloon crash in Somerset which killed two men.

The balloon plunged down in flames onto a green at Pratten's Bowls Club in Midsomer Norton, near Bath, at about 0930 GMT on Saturday.

It was believed to have been attempting a high altitude flight at 20,000ft (6,096m) and was being monitored by Bristol Air Traffic Control.

Witnesses said it narrowly missed a row of terraced houses and a nearby school.

Sarah Andrews, who saw the crash, said the canopy was collapsing and the basket was on fire. She said the blaze on the ground was "intense".

Avon Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman Sarah Allen said: "We believe the balloon was attempting a high-altitude flight. It was being monitored by Bristol Air Traffic Control.

"They had a ground crew with them that lost the balloon in the clouds."

She added that relatives of the two men in the balloon were among the team attempting to follow the craft.

Investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) visited the the crash site on Saturday.

It is not thought that any other aircraft was involved in the incident.

Andy Elson, an expert in high-altitude ballooning, said a problem with the oxygen supply for those on board or with the gas cylinders would be the most likely cause of a problem at flights of over 14,000ft (4,267m).

The balloon contained four liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders which were venting gas.

Crews used three high pressure hose-reels to extinguish the fire.

Police have appealed to the public for information following the crash.

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