2 dead, 1 hurt in Iowa balloon crash; 1 may be from Colo. | PostIndependent.com

2 dead, 1 hurt in Iowa balloon crash; 1 may be from Colo.

COULTER, Iowa (AP) ” Two men were killed and a third was injured Friday when the helium balloon they were in hit a power line and crashed in north-central Iowa.

Franklin County Sheriff Larry Richtsmeier said the identities of the men killed and the person injured hadn’t been confirmed, but at least one was believed to be from Colorado.

“It’s going to be a waiting game getting ahold of family members,” the sheriff said.

The balloon was descending when it struck a power line about 9:15 a.m. local time, he said.

Residents were watching the balloon when it hit a power line. The balloon and the basket then separated and the basket fell 60 feet to the ground in a farm field about three miles southwest of Coulter, the sheriff said.

The residents had come out of their house to wave at the balloonist, Richtsmeier said. When they saw it hit the lines they called 911, then rushed about a mile up a gravel road where they found the basket on its side in a grassy field.

The balloon was blown into a plowed field about a mile away.

The two men died at the scene. The surviving man was flown by helicopter to Mercy Medical Center, about 35 miles away in Mason City. His condition wasn’t immediately known.

The bodies were taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Ankeny for autopsies.

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 inflated by air warmed by propane burners, Richtsmeier said.

A number of items were found still in the wicker-like basket, including sandbags, flashlights, bottled drinks and helmets.

On Friday morning, there were high scattered clouds and winds of 15 to 20 mph from the south, Richtsmeier said.

“It was a good clear morning,” he said.

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