A hot air balloon on a high-altitude flight lost control and plummeted to the ground in England today, killing both occupants, emergency services said.
The accident occurred shortly after 9.30am close to the grounds of a golf club in Midsomer Norton, near Bath in Somerset.
A ground crew tracking the balloon lost sight of the aircraft in the clouds shortly before it came down, according to Avon Fire and Rescue Service.
Two men were pronounced dead at the scene. No other aircraft were thought to be involved in the accident and no one on the ground was injured.
It is thought that the occupants of the balloon were attempting to ascend to 20,000ft when something went wrong, causing the balloon to fall rapidly.
Sarah Allen, spokeswoman for Avon Fire and Rescue Service, 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 family members of the two victims in the balloon were among the team attempting to follow the aircraft.
Emergency services started receiving calls about the incident at 9.47am.
Witnesses reported seeing the balloon plummet from the sky.
Robert Biggs told BBC News: “It first sounded like a plane in trouble. It was more of a whistling sound. We looked up, there was a break in the cloud and this hot air balloon came hurtling down.”
He added that it crashed in the middle of a bowling green.
Two off-duty firefighters were cycling nearby and went to the scene to help, but by the time they arrived, the balloon’s four liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders were spewing flames, hampering any rescue attempt.
Four fire engines were dispatched and an air ambulance attended the incident.
Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.
An investigation has been launched by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, with a team of experts making their way to the crash site today.